Drug Discovery Institute launches


By Dr Simon Ridley | Friday 15 November 2013

Alzheimer’s Research UK is launching an exciting new initiative to bridge the gap between new knowledge about the causes of dementia and the discovery of new treatments.

Alzheimer’s Research UK has just announced that it is looking to establish and fund a new initiative called the Alzheimer’s Research UK Drug Discovery Institute. We are inviting applications from leading dementia researchers at UK universities who have the expertise and determination to establish what will be the first of its kind in Europe.

Why is Alzheimer’s Research UK doing this?

Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Research Strategy covers a wide range of biomedical research into Alzheimer’s and other dementias, including the most fundamental causes and characteristics of these conditions. Our funding covers molecular research right through to clinical studies in people, extending as far as looking at data from populations.

What this broad approach does is to increase our understanding of what causes the different types of dementia and how changes inside the brain can impact upon people through different symptoms. This better understanding can help to improve diagnosis and offer clues to the different risk factors for these diseases.

We are developing several different ways to bridge the large and difficult gap between new knowledge of diseases and the search for new treatments.

In addition, we firmly believe that new treatments, which are so desperately needed, are much more likely to be developed as we understand more. But how exactly does increasing understanding of a disease process lead to new treatments? It certainly doesn’t happen by itself. The pharmaceutical industry clearly has a very important role here, but there is also a need for other approaches, especially at the very early stages of drug discovery. Alzheimer’s Research UK is developing several different ways to bridge the large and difficult gap between new knowledge of diseases and the search for new treatments. We will be announcing these developments over the next month or so, but the Drug Discovery Institute is the first of these.

What will the Alzheimer’s Research UK Drug Discovery Institute look like, and what will it do?

In essence, the Drug Discovery Institute will sit within an existing university which is already active in collaborative and translational dementia research. This will be somewhere where funding from Alzheimer’s Research UK and other sources is being used to make discoveries in fundamental research and where clinician researchers work together with patients.

Alzheimer’s Research UK will provide the start up and running costs of the Drug Discovery Institute and fund a team of biologists and chemists to bring promising but early-stage ideas into the drug discovery pipeline. These projects will be generated from within the host university as well as from worldwide published literature. The Drug Discovery Institute will cultivate a collaborative and multidisciplinary research environment. It will join together specialist expertise in drug discovery with academic researchers and clinicians with knowledge of the disease areas and ideas to bring forward.

The ultimate aim will be to develop potential new treatments from early stage drug discovery into clinical trials. We know from the pharmaceutical industry that few drugs ever make it that far. That is why we need to keep a strong pipeline of new ideas turning into new drug discovery and for that, we need to keep investing in innovative research.

What happens next?

There will be a two-stage application process. The deadline for the first ‘Expressions of Interest’ stage will be Febraury 14 2014. There will be a review process with the help of independent experts and the aim is to contract with the successful university by the end of summer 2014. For any enquiries from researchers please contact the Research Team at research@alzheimersresearchuk.org.

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About the author

Dr Simon Ridley

Simon joined Alzheimer's Research UK in January 2009. As Head of Research he was responsible for the delivery of funding programmes. Simon follows new developments in dementia research and is a regular media spokesperson on research matters.

Simon has extensive experience as a researcher and has worked in industry. He studied biochemistry at Trinity College Dublin and obtained his PhD from Cambridge University. He no longer works for Alzheimer's Research UK.