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Japanese pharmaceuticals team up on dementia treatment

Government to help seek breakthrough in drug delivery to brain

Japan's pharmaceutical heavyweights Takeda, Shionogi and others will team up to tackle dementia.

OSAKA -- Takeda Pharmaceutical and Shionogi & Co. are joining forces with three other Japanese drug companies to develop treatment techniques to combat dementia and similar neurological diseases.

The group is looking to establish in about two years basic technology needed to deliver medicines that remedy such disorders. Right now, no treatment is on the market worldwide that can effectively treat dementia. The same mechanism that helps to prevent viruses and bacteria from entering the brain impedes the delivery of drug compounds.

Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma, Ono Pharmaceutical and Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma are also taking part in the joint-research project. The Japanese government will lend its support through the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development, or AMED. The Osaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which runs a data system that mines research at roughly 700 universities, is also a partner.

The drug delivery systems will be based on technology from Kobe Gakuin University and other Japanese universities. Researchers from the five companies will share responsibility in proof-of-concept tests and other processes.

This partnership was able to get off the ground because it involves basis research, which is not subject to direct competition. If these delivery systems rise to the level of practical implementation, they would lead to drug development for conditions ranging from brain tumors to psychiatric disorders.

Because new drugs must prove more effective than existing medicines to be approved, only one out of 30,000 candidates reportedly make the cut. It took almost two decades to develop Ono's Opdivo anticancer drug, fetching it a high sticker price.

AMED was established by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's administration as an emblem of his economic growth blueprint. The body makes strategic investments using medical research funds from the health, economic and education ministries. For this project, AMED is leaning toward picking up half of research costs. The government is looking to support these types of joint undertakings to keep a lid on medical expenses.

(Nikkei)

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