WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., today unveiled his legislation to create prize-based incentives to encourage more public-private collaboration in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease and other causes of dementia. The “Ensuring Useful Research Expenditures is Key for Alzheimer’s (EUREKA) Act,” S. 2067, would not replace other funding and research initiatives for Alzheimer’s but add another route for breakthroughs. The bipartisan bill is cosponsored by Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., Angus King, I-Maine, and Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii.
“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 National Institute of Health (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.
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.”
“We applaud Senator Wicker for advancing an innovative approach to preventing and treating Alzheimer’s disease by 2025,” said George Vradenburg, Founder and Chairman of UsAgainstAlzheimer’s. “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. 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.”
The EUREKA Act would authorize the Director of the NIH to work with other federal agencies to establish prize challenges informed by the research milestones contained in the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease. 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.
An advisory council that would include experts in organizing and managing such challenges as well as patient advocates and industry representatives will be constituted to determine the competitions, while a separate judging panel will evaluate submissions and make recommendations for awards to the Director of NIH.
Prize challenges enable government sponsors to pay only when a prize team achieves specified goals or milestones. Although funds will be authorized and reserved for awards, prizes will only be granted when teams achieve clearly defined objectives, making the EUREKA Act a cost-effective tool to support the pursuit of the 2025 goal. Additionally, EUREKA would permit the receipt of donations from the private sector and from individuals to fund the competition and build the award fund.