Global action against dementia

Summary Report

Second Global Dementia Legacy Event
Harnessing the power of discoveries:
Maximizing academia-industry synergies

Ottawa Ontario, Canada
September 11-12, 2014


On September 11 and 12, 2014, nearly 200 industry leaders, academia, and policy makers from across Canada and around the world met in Ottawa for the second Global Action Against Dementia legacy event. The event was co-hosted by Canada and France through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the French National Alliance for Life and Health Sciences (Aviesan).

In keeping with its theme—Harnessing the Power of Discoveries: Maximizing Academia-Industry Synergies—the Ottawa event brought together key players in these domains to achieve three main goals:

  • To explore collaborative opportunities for research into novel diagnostic, pre-emptive, and therapeutic approaches to dementia by bringing together academia and industry;
  • To improve understanding of the impact of the paradigm shift in pharmaceutical research on the development of new drugs against dementia and find appropriate incentives to engage the medical device and information technology (IT) industries in this field; and
  • To foster a collective approach to problem solving through the pooling of resources and the sharing of cohorts, data, and best practices.

In addition to contributing to the work of the World Dementia Council and the ultimate goal of the Global Action Against Dementia initiative to modify or cure dementia by 2025, the ideas that emerged from the second legacy event served as the starting point for the identification of actionable items at a meeting of the Global CEO Initiative on Alzheimer’s Disease, which took place immediately following.


An estimated 44 million people worldwide suffer from dementia. Recognizing the need to take global action to address this growing epidemic, the United Kingdom (UK) hosted the G8 Dementia Summit in London in December 2013. At the summit, Health Ministers of the G8 countries signed a declaration in support of several commitments. One was to hold a series of topic-specific legacy events in partnership with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Health Organization (WHO), the European Commission, the European Union (EU) Joint Programme – Neurodegenerative Disease Research, and civil society to develop cross-sector partnerships and innovation in dementia research.

London hosted the first of the four legacy events—on Social Impact Investment—in June 2014. Canada and France agreed to co-host the second event, building on a spirit of collaboration that has existed on Alzheimer research since the CIHR launched its first international research program with the French Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) in 2008.

Over and above its international collaborations with the United States (US) and the EU, CIHR recently launched the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging, a unique research initiative bringing together Canadian expertise in the neurodegenerative processes affecting cognition in aging to conduct innovative and impactful research. France will soon launch its new plan on neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer that will follow the first plan on Alzheimer’s disease that covered the 2008-2012 period.

A third legacy event, focused on New Care and Prevention Models will take place in Tokyo, Japan, from November 5 to 7, 2014, with a fourth on Alzheimer’s Disease Research to be held in Bethesda, Maine, on February 9 and 10, 2015. A wrap-up event to review progress will be hosted by the WHO in Geneva, Switzerland, in March 2015.

Event Format

Opening and closing remarks were provided by Canada’s Minister of Health and Minister of State for Seniors, the Global Dementia Envoy, and the French Ambassador, as well as by representatives of the two host institutions, the US National Institute on Aging, the UK Department of Health, the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, the Alzheimer Society of Canada, Brain Canada, dementia caregivers, and people living with dementia.

Recognizing that the prevention, modification, treatment, care, and eventual cure of dementia would require significant investment in medical research and technologies, a series of panel discussions took place over the course of the two days to explore different facets of industry-academia collaboration related to dementia research. The panels were aimed at identifying best strategies/approaches for fostering collaborations between academic and private-sectors and at highlighting out-of-the-box ideas from related fields where this kind of synergy had already occurred.

Key players from more than 20 charitable organizations, academic institutions, private-sector companies, government agencies, and others provided their unique perspectives on important lessons learned through their work, which were followed by questions and comments from discussants and the plenary.

Key Outcomes

A number of key points were raised during the six panel discussions, as highlighted in the following summaries:

Panel 1: Reflections on Innovative Academia-Industry Synergies

  • Integrated funding is required for the full spectrum of the innovation chain
  • Recognizing the stratification of neurodegenerative (ND) diseases, a combination of solutions will be needed
  • Support must be provided to engage academia and industry and provide opportunities for them to get to know one another
  • Risk and benefits must be shared
  • Outcomes other than publications are needed to motivate academia
  • Barriers related to legal challenges must be addressed

Panel 2: Biotechnology and the Investment Community

  • The establishment of deep, long-term relationships is critical to success
  • The complexity of translational research needs to be recognized
  • Patient perspectives must be included in strategic decisions
  • Concerted efforts must be made to help connect the most promising pairings of academic and industry partners
  • Industry is needed to support and mentor academia
  • Large clusters are needed to create an ecosystem
  • Conditions should be created to foster connections “upstream” in the discovery process

Panel 3: The Pharmaceutical Industry: Towards a New Paradigm

  • The complexity of the dementia epidemic cannot be tackled without collaboration between academia and industry
  • Co-creation models should be implemented in proximity to academia
  • New models (e.g., incubator, co-investing) are needed to support small companies
  • The competitive culture that exists between pharmaceutical companies needs to be rethought; e.g., the concept of “coopetition” (cooperative competition)
  • Open data platforms and new adaptive clinical trial paradigms are needed
  • A natural history data platform is required
  • Trials need to be made more dementia-friendly

Panel 4: New Opportunities from the Medical Device and IT Industries

  • The health/medical (pharma) and IT ecosystems are colliding
  • The issues faced by the medical device and IT industries are unique (e.g., regulation)
  • There is a need for new methodologies for evaluating clinical impacts
  • Industry, academia, and institutions (e.g., government) need to be involved together, from day one
  • Solutions must focus on the person, not the technology
  • Co-innovation with small- and medium-sized enterprises is needed
  • Innovation communities must include service providers, academia, and industry
  • The implementation of new technologies changes the nature of care

Panel 5: Solutions to Barriers: Regulatory Environment

  • There is a need for regulatory science efforts for both drugs and medical devices that really address the gaps
  • Accelerated, globally synchronized approvals are needed
  • New, innovative strategies (e.g., SAKIGAKE project in Japan) are required to accelerate research and development at each stage
  • There is a need to focus on the role of the regulator (as opposed to the role of government) and how it can be used to address challenges (e.g., polypharmacy in elders, aggressive approaches)
  • Clinical trials must be reinvented to include multi-drug approaches and evolve toward international collaboration
  • An integrated development stream is needed that involves the main regulators and is based on outside-of-the-box ideas

Panel 6: Solutions to Barriers: Big Data, Open Access and Societal Considerations

  • Big data are needed to face such a complex global challenge
    • Common and interoperable standards are required
    • Stakeholder engagement is key
    • Public/private sector engagement is critical
  • Radically different, open-access environments are needed to push research into the largely unexplored area of basic science for new targets
    • Funding must be carried out differently: with industry, without national barriers, and with open access
  • The person living with dementia and his/her family must be at the centre of all new technological solutions
  • A collaborative, public-health approach is needed


The ultimate goal of the second Global Action Against Dementia legacy event was to propose practical solutions for the development and support of joint public-private, international approaches to dementia research. The ideas that came forward from the Ottawa discussions will contribute to the development of an action framework for addressing the existing environmental challenges and barriers to fostering collaborations between academia and traditional and non-traditional industrial players in this field—including regulatory barriers that interfere with the ability of G7 countries to work together effectively to share ideas, data, platforms, and discoveries related to dementia research.

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