In New Role, Former UK Prime Minister David Cameron Charts Path ‘Out of Forest’ for Alzheimer's Research
CAMERON: One of the reasons I’m getting involved: It seems to me where we are with Alzheimer’s and dementia is a bit like where we were with HIV and AIDS in the early 1980s. Back then, people thought this is just a death sentence, and there’s nothing you can do. And fortunately, amazing medical research and advances have taken us all the way to where people can live with this condition.
I think one of the reasons why we need the philanthropic organizations, we need the universities, we need the great charities like Alzheimer’s Research UK is that we can’t expect the drug companies to do all the work now because we’re not far enough down the line.
Again, I’m an arts graduate so, forgive: I’m trying to think of the right analogy. With cancer, it seems to me, we’ve got four or five pathways out of the forest: shrinking tumors, genetic medicines, all of the other treatments that are working. [There are] various pathways, and the research and the money is pouring down those pathways, and that’s great.
With Alzheimer’s and dementia, we’re not there yet. We’re still hacking our way through the forest trying to find the exit points. I think that we will find them. We know about the proteins building up in the brain, and maybe we can find things that will affect them. We also know, and it can’t be said too often, that dementia is caused by diseases of the brain, not just being a part of aging.
So I think it’s the right moment for the charities, the universities, the governments and the philanthropic organizations to pile money into the basic research to find those pathways out of the forest. I’m confident we’ll get there, and that’s why I’m spending my time with Alzheimer’s Research UK, because it only does research. It doesn’t spend money on anything else other than funding the best research available.
What I did in government was obviously try and raise the international profile to get the drug discovery fund going, and in the UK, we’re going to have the Dementia Research Institute at University College-London. So I think there’s great momentum.
My plea to the [biopharmaceutical] industry is that now is not the time to pull back and give up, which I know you’re not doing. Now is a time to redouble, because I think in the next few years, we’re going to see some big breakthroughs.