As venture funding in oncology flourishes, neuro has seen shallower pockets. A European investor wants to change that
Big Pharma has retreated from neuroscience over the past several years, abandoning or trimming back programs after facing setbacks in difficult-to-treat brain disorders. And now, René Kuijten says dementia opportunities remain “largely unfunded.”
That’s where European life sciences investor LSP comes in.
Kuijten, LSP’s managing partner, founded the LSP Dementia Fund to support biotechs searching for new treatments for neurodegenerative diseases. In the last few months, he’s pulled together €50 million ($60.5 million), and he hopes to eventually raise at least €150 million ($181.7 million).
“In the past two decades, venture capital has proven to play an essential role in advancing biotech companies, but dementia opportunities remained largely unfunded,” Kuijten, who declined an interview, said in a statement.
The fund will be managed by Philip Scheltens, professor of cognitive neurology at Amsterdam University Medical Centers and founder of Alzheimer Center Amsterdam. It’ll focus on all stages of dementia drug and medtech development for diseases, like Alzheimer’s, that cause dementia.
“I am excited to make this move in my career to realise treatment options for patients, building on and combining it with the work I was able to do at the Alzheimer Center Amsterdam,” Scheltens said in a statement.
In May 2019, BIO released a report on the state of Alzheimer’s research, which called venture investment in the space “insufficient.” At the time, venture funding of US companies with lead programs in Alzheimer’s disease was 16 times below oncology funding, BIO reported.
Former BIO president and CEO Jim Greenwood seemed optimistic about the many clinical-stage programs in the works to tackle the debilitating disease. But the “bad news,” he wrote, is that “while these programs hold real promise, the R&D challenges with this disease are enormous and the level of investment and innovation is not where our nation needs it to be to address this exploding public health crisis.”
With over 50 million patients suffering worldwide from dementia, LSP called the disease the “greatest healthcare challenge of our time.”
“Together with Philip and his network, we now have a truly unique expertise in-house to identify and develop breakthrough ideas in the dementia field, ultimately leading to solutions for patients suffering from this terrible disease,” Kuijten said.