by George Vradenburg
In 2020, a new, deadly, and swiftly-spreading pandemic captured the world’s attention, sparking history-making global collaboration to stem the tide of disease. The successful race to develop and approve COVID-19 vaccines has demonstrated the power of worldwide cooperation between the public and private sectors. But while COVID-19 has dominated headlines, another groundbreaking international effort has brought the world closer to ending the silent pandemic of Alzheimer’s, which will only continue to ravage the world if left unchecked.
This effort, the Davos Alzheimer’s Collaborative (DAC), was officially launched last month at the World Economic Forum’s 2021 Annual Meeting, The Davos Agenda, and it will play a vital leadership role in addressing the growing threat Alzheimer’s poses to global health and wealth. Action is more urgent than ever; caregiving and working-age populations are shrinking, national fiscal budgets needed to support aging-related healthcare costs are under stress, and the monetary policy mechanisms to drive economic growth in the face of a declining global workforce are exhausted.
DAC aims to overcome the challenges of Alzheimer’s by linking, scaling, and building coordinating mechanisms to tackle Alzheimer’s. Incubated by the World Economic Forum and its partner, the Global CEO Initiative on Alzheimer’s Disease (CEOi), DAC is a global pre-competitive alliance patterned after the successful approaches of GAVI and CEPI, WEF-incubated initiatives that have catalysed global responses to other pressing public health challenges.
DAC’s 2021 launch featured a panel of leaders in industry, advocacy, academia, and public health, several of whom are members of The World Dementia Council. Panelists focused on the scope and scale of the global Alzheimer’s crisis, emphasized that there is new hope on the horizon, highlighted the importance of public-private partnerships, and offered other critical insights to guide the fight against the disease. You may view DAC’s launch here (Session 1 & Session 2). Panelists and special speakers included:
- Margaret Chan, former Director-General, World Health Organization
- Amy Goldman, CEO and Chair, GHR Foundation
- Jeff Huber, CEO, Home Instead Inc.
- Haruo Naito, CEO, Eisai Co.
- Andrea Pfeifer, CEO, AC Immune SA
- Ali Velshi, Anchor, NBC News
- Michel Vounatsos, CEO, Biogen
- George Vradenburg, Convener, CEOi, Co-Chair, DAC
- Elias Zerhouni, former Director, National Institutes of Health
Advised by over 100 thought leaders in science, finance, and healthcare across the globe during its development, DAC has already begun forming critical partnerships with international organizations and governments to drive innovation. As an initial set of initiatives to demonstrate that global collaboration across sectors, nations, and regions can broaden and accelerate scientific discovery and therapies, three inter-linked and ambitious projects are being launched:
- Global cohort development. DAC, working in partnership with the International HundredK+ Consortium Cohort, Gates Ventures, and the Broad Institute, aims to build a global cohort with high-quality, detailed data on a well-characterized, diverse population. Already, this effort has engaged cohorts representing 21 million patients on 6 continents and includes approximately 125,000 individual life years. The objective is to tap into the 90% of the world’s population not of Western European origin where little genetic, proteomic, or other Alzheimer’s biological study has been done to learn the heterogeneity of Alzheimer’s.
- Global clinical trials support platform. DAC aims to build a global clinical trial support platform that engages North America, Europe, China, Australia, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, and other countries. The objective is to reduce the time and cost of Alzheimer’s trials and create a global research platform.
- Healthcare system preparedness. DAC aims to help facilitate the implementation of national health system commitments and strategies to diagnose Alzheimer’s in the 20+ year window before Alzheimer’s symptoms emerge. The objective is to enable early intervention with emerging disease-slowing drugs to reduce the impact of Alzheimer’s.
DAC’s total budget is approximately $700 million over the next six years, including $25M in a 2021 “foundational phase” intended to demonstrate our capacity to operationalize our programs.
These efforts prove that there is new hope on the horizon. It is the time for the world to seize the opportunity to tackle Alzheimer’s at the scope and scale at which it is attacking us. To learn more about our ongoing efforts or contact the Collaborative, visit davosalzheimerscollaborative.org.
George Vradenburg is a trustee and member of the World Dementia Council, founder of the Global CEO Initiative on Alzheimer’s Disease, and chairman and co-founder of UsAgainstAlzheimer’s.