The Alzheimer's Society in the UK has expressed disappointment over comments made by Sanofi chief executive Christopher Viehbacher who told Bloomberg the company will not be investing in the disease because of the difficulty in finding suitable targets.

Speaking to the news agency in San Diego at the annual meeting of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, Mr Viehbacher (pictured) said the firm “definitely” will commit major funds to discovering an Alzheimer’s therapy. He was quoted as saying that "we have to do a lot more basic science work to understand what’s going on,” as "we really, at best, partially understand the cause of the disease. It’s hard to come up with meaningful targets".

Mr Viehbacher went on to state that "we start with the premise that what we know isn’t adequate" and "unless we’ve got better targets, we’re not really making any progress". He told Bloomberg that the Brain Initiative unveiled earlier this month by President Obama could improve things, as could more collaboration across the pharmaceutical industry, but warned against pushing therapies into late stage trials too early, adding that "we have to be humble in front of science".

In response, Andrew Chidgey, director of external affairs at the Alzheimer’s Society, told PharmaTimes World News that "now is not the time to back away from dementia research". He added that "despite costing the economy more than cancer and heart disease, funding for research into dementia is only a fraction of those conditions".

Mr Chidgey noted that currently there are 150 times more clinical trials focusing on treating people in the late stages of cancer than Alzheimer's. One in three people over the age of 65 will develop dementia, he said, and "more funding for research is urgently needed if we are to defeat the condition once and for all".