WASHINGTON, DC (WLOX) - Mississippi's junior U.S. Senator Roger Wicker is hoping prize-based incentives will help encourage more public-private collaboration in the fight against Alzheimer's disease and other causes of dementia.
The EUREKA Act would authorize the Director of the National Institute of Health to work with other federal agencies to establish prize challenges to reach research milestones. EUREKA stands for "Ensuring Useful Research Expenditures is Key for Alzheimer's." It wouldn't replace other funding and research initiatives, but simply add another route for breakthroughs.
"America has always been the home of groundbreaking innovation," Wicker said. "We compete to create, build, and make a difference in people's lives. The 'EUREKA Act' seeks to channel this pioneering spirit through competition to help us better understand, detect, and ultimately cure Alzheimer's disease. Given today's budget constraints, it is important to find a way to supplement existing funds to further this critical research."
The NIH has set a goal of curing Alzheimer's by 2025. Today, Alzheimer's is the most expensive disease in America and has a 100 percent fatality rate. According to a report released earlier this year, caring for people with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias is estimated to cost the United States $226 billion in 2015, with one in five Medicare dollars spent on an Alzheimer's victim. Unless a cure is found, treatment costs are expected to grow to an estimated $1.1 trillion by 2050.
In Mississippi, 12 percent of senior citizens have Alzheimer's. The number of victims is expected to rise 27.5 percent by 2025, increasing from 51,000 to 65,000.
AUREKA Act prize challenges could focus in a number of areas including:
- Identification and validation of Alzheimer’s biomarkers;
- Development of non-invasive and cost-effective early detection and diagnostic tools;
- Repurposing of existing drugs to address Alzheimer’s disease; and
- Development of new tools and approaches to care for persons with Alzheimer’s disease.
The competitions would be determined by an advisory council, while a separate judging panel would evaluate submissions and make recommendations for awards to the Director of NIH.
Prizes will only be granted when teams achieve clearly defined objectives. Private sector donations could be used to fund the competition and build the award fund.
Wicker's legislation is supported by the XPRIZE Foundation, Alzheimer's Foundation of America, UsAgainstAlzheimer's, Alzheimer's Association, Eli Lilly and Company, BrightFocus Foundation, and the MIND Center at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
"This legislation, which will reward researchers who meet certain milestones in Alzheimer's disease drug development with cash prizes, will help spur innovation and accelerate discovery of a cure or disease modifying treatment," said Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr., President and CEO of the Alzheimer's Foundation of America. "We, as a nation, still must work to make Alzheimer's disease research a national priority and make it's funding on par with other major disease states."
"The EUREKA Act would spark smart public-private partnerships to leverage America's best minds with the great work at NIH in a fiscally responsible manner," said George Vradenburg, Founder and Chairman of UsAgainstAlzheimer's. "We look forward to working with Senator Wicker to advance the EUREKA Act into law."
"An advance in Alzheimer's research has the potential both to save millions of lives and billions of dollars for the nation's public health programs," said Robert Egge, Executive Vice President of Alzheimer's Association. "With the cooperation of the medical and research communities, we are at a tipping point. We have the ideas, the technology and the will, but we need a focused commitment from the federal government, including robust support for Alzheimer's research at the National Institutes of Health."
"This is a time of great and deserved hope in dementia as Congress and the National Institutes of Health have begun to address chronic underfunding of research," said Ian Kremer, Executive Director of Leaders Engaged on Alzheimer's Disease. "The Act's focus on pay for success highlights that we need not only more research but better research, research that changes the lives of people living with dementia today and that reduces or eliminates the risk of people having to live with dementia in the future."
"Senator Wicker has been a champion for Alzheimer's research and related public health policy," said Patty Dunn, Executive Director of the Alzheimer's Association Mississippi Chapter. "We applaud his commitment to support a robust National Alzheimer's Plan by cosponsoring the successful Alzheimer's Accountability Act and encouraging increased research funding for the National Institutes of Health. Our advocates work closely with his office and appreciate Senator Wicker's introduction of the innovative EUREKA Act and its goal of advancing research breakthroughs for Alzheimer's disease."