Dementia News

19 June 2017
Dementia Discovery Fund Annual Update

Dementia Discovery Fund Annual Update

Nine investments made since launch, collaborations established with world-leading academic institutions, scientific strategy prioritised and international team strengthened

Significant new investment from Woodford Investment Management

London and Boston, 19 June 2017 – The Dementia Discovery Fund, a venture capital fund focused on discovering and developing novel therapies for dementia, today announces an update on progress made in its first year of investment and significant new investment by Woodford Investment Management via Woodford Patient Capital Trust (WPCT).

The DDF, launched in October 2015, announced its first investment in January 2016 and has made significant progress, on track with the Fund’s goals, towards delivering new drug approaches to modify the course of dementia treatment. Achievements demonstrated to date include:

  • Nine investments made exploring novel mechanisms or creating unique and valuable infrastructure, three further near term opportunities identified
  • Four compelling key scientific themes identified to focus investment with the flexibility to also support high-quality opportunistic projects
  • Strong industrial, scientific and academic network established to drive deal flow and a wide range of investible opportunities seen
  • Brought on board an exciting team of Entrepreneurs-in-Residence, along with a world-leading SAB and SV’s Biotech and Venture Partners in both London and Boston, combining to bolster blue-chip DDF team already in place

Tetsu Maruyama, CSO of the DDF, said: “The DDF has a unique approach and this first year of investing has shown clearly how our new way of focusing investment and deploying an expert team can unlock areas of dementia research that would otherwise be underdeveloped or unacknowledged. We draw on the combined expertise of our network and collaborate creatively with researchers, entrepreneurs, investors, charities and industry. The fact that, in addition to investing in established businesses, we are willing and able translate ripe, investible science through translational projects, company formation and our establishment of Entrepreneurs-in-Residence is particularly critical in meeting what is a huge and growing global challenge.”

Kate Bingham, Managing Partner of SV, said: “One year into investing at DDF and we see a material change on the horizon which could be classified as comparable to the oncology scene more than a decade ago. It has been enormously gratifying to have seen the vision behind the DDF – of creating new opportunities in dementia research – being realised so early. There is no shortage of high-quality international science in the field and there is a vast opportunity in taking validated interventions and insights from other disease areas and applying them to dementia. We know we are making progress and we look forward to building on this strong start and making a significant difference to the field. The new investment by Woodford Investment Management is strong validation of the DDF’s highly innovative approach.”

Scientific Strategy
A goal of the DDF is to bring greater diversity to dementia research, explore areas beyond the prevailing amyloid beta hypothesis and to take insights from other therapeutic areas an apply those to the brain.

Working closely with its world-class Scientific Advisory Board, the DDF team has developed a scientific strategy which currently prioritises investment into four defined and executed key scientific areas supported by human genetic and pathological data. These are: microglial biology and inflammation; mitochondrial dynamics; trafficking and membrane biology; and synaptic physiology and function. Compelling opportunities outside these areas are also reviewed.

Team
Since launch, the DDF has built an outstanding in-house team with deep experience in neuroscience. The core DDF team works closely with its Scientific Advisory Board and world-class consultants in London and Boston, as well as the established venture management team at SV. The team is also supported by Entrepreneurs-in-Residence, bringing additional experience in translation, research and academia. The DDF is actively seeking new Entrepreneurs-in-Residence to lead translational projects and early stage companies.

Management of the fund is led by Tetsu Maruyama, Chief Scientific Officer and Laurence Barker, Chief Business Officer. Tetsu joined from Takeda where he was Head of Global Drug Discovery. Laurence joined the DDF from GSK where he was Head of Investment Management in Worldwide Business Development, responsible for managing GSK’s venture investment portfolio. Team ethos and strategy is streamlined with a rapid communication and decision making process in place.

Portfolio companies and translational programmes review
DDF’s current investments include research-led projects, new companies and investments in established companies:

Portfolio companies

  • Cerevance, a start-up company exploiting a powerful novel platform for identifying and validating new disease targets in human brain tissue developed at Rockefeller University and experienced drug discovery scientists in Cambridge, UK
  • Tiaki Therapeutics, a DDF-formed company industrialising a sophisticated in vitro model of brain immune cell function to identify modulators of microglial function for treatment of neurodegeneration
  • DDF ChemCo, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the DDF with a proprietary 500,000 molecule CNS-focused compound library available for use by DDF portfolio companies, projects and external collaborators
  • Gen2 Neuroscience, a UK-based, seed-stage company founded by University of Cambridge Professor Rick Livesey, seeking to identify specific disease-associated forms of tau, a protein closely associated with neurodegeneration
  • Alector, a California-based biotech company developing antibody drugs to boost the brain’s immune response to neurodegeneration with an academic founder from Columbia University

Translational programmes

  • Rheostat, projects aiming to identify tractable targets to restore normal mitochondrial function in Parkinson’s disease, accessing materials and expertise from Toronto, and Harvard Universities
  • Parkinson’s Dementia Targets Platform, accessing data from Harvard Medical School seeks to test a novel target identification platform for factors that contribute to accelerated dementia in Parkinson’s disease patients
  • Autifony collaboration, an established biotech company with clinical assets in CNS diseases. DDF is collaborating on a project based on discoveries from Yale University to explore a specific ion channel and its potential role in Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Membrane Contact Sites Project, a series of synergistic projects with world-leading membrane function and cell biology experts from several Ivy League Universities

Contacts:

Dementia Discovery Fund
Laurence Barker, CBO, laurence.barker@svlsm.com, +44 20 7421 7092

Consilium Strategic Communications
Mary-Jane Elliott, Chris Gardner, Ivar Milligan, Melissa Gardiner
DDF@consilium-comms.com
+44 20 3709 5700

About the Dementia Discovery Fund (DDF)
The DDF is a venture capital fund which invest in projects and companies to discover and develop novel, effective disease-modifying therapeutics for dementia. Seven leading pharmaceutical companies (GSK, Biogen, Lilly, Takeda, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Astex, a subsidiary of Otsuka), the UK’s Department of Health and charity Alzheimer’s Research UK have invested in the DDF to date. Heads of Neuroscience and R&D represent these strategic investors on the DDF Scientific Advisory Board and work closely with SV’s dedicated team of neuroscientists and experts to identify and evaluate novel approaches for the treatment of dementia. SV won the bid to become Manager in a competitive selection process held in 2015.

About SV Life Sciences and SV Health Investors (‘SV’)
SV Health Investors, formerly SV Life Sciences, is a leading healthcare and life sciences venture capital and growth equity firm. SV’s goal is to transform healthcare – one investment at a time – by supporting the entrepreneurs who create and build breakthrough companies and treatments. With over $2 billion in capital under management in seven private healthcare funds, a 20-year track record in the US and Europe and offices in Boston, San Francisco and London, SV drives the development of new, innovative technologies.

About Woodford Patient Capital Trust (WPCT)
WPCT is the £800m investment trust launched in April 2015 by Woodford Investment Management Ltd (Woodford). The trust invests mainly in early-stage and early-growth companies but also has exposure to some blue-chip companies. Woodford is a fast-growing asset management company built on a founding philosophy of transparency and simplicity. Launched in May 2014, the company has more than £17bn assets under management. Further information can be found at https://woodfordfunds.com

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