Dementia drug discovery

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By Dr Simon Ridley | Wednesday 11 December 2013

Ending the wait for new treatments

A few weeks ago, we were excited to launch a new project to create a dementia Drug Discovery Institute. At this stage, we have invited leading universities in the UK to express their interest in providing a home for our Institute, and I’m pleased that we’ve already had positive conversations with a number of top institutions showing an immediate interest in the idea.

The Institute, which we hope will get up and running next year, will see us fund a team of biologists and chemists to bring promising early-stage ideas into the drug discovery pipeline. These projects will be generated from the university hosting the Institute as well as from published papers from across the world. The Drug Discovery Institute will join together specialist expertise in drug discovery with academic researchers and clinicians with knowledge of the disease areas and ideas to make big things happen.

If our Institute is driving drug discovery from inside the academic sector, then our newly-announced Dementia Consortium is the flip side. The Consortium, comprising Alzheimer’s Research UK, MRC Technology and the two pharmaceutical companies Eisai and Lilly, will go out to the academic sector in the UK and around the world and will fund the development of new drug targets, that is, biological processes that play a role in Alzheimer’s disease and other diseases that cause dementia.

The consortium will support academic teams to scrutinise and test these promising targets in detail and, if the targets’ potential is confirmed, the pharmaceutical industry partners involved will have the opportunity to take them into a journey of further development that ends, we hope, with drugs that benefit people with dementia.

We must do better for people afflicted by dementia by developing new treatments that act against disease processes themselves, slowing or halting progress.

It’s been over ten years since the last dementia drug was made available. Existing treatments can help, but only for some people, for some symptoms and for a limited time. We must do better for people afflicted by dementia by developing new treatments that act against disease processes themselves, slowing or halting progress. A drug that could delay the onset of symptoms for five years would halve the number of people with dementia. For the hundreds of thousands of people that would benefit, the impact for them personally, and for their families, would be immeasurable.

Alzheimer’s Research UK is going far further than any other UK charity in driving the development of new treatments for dementia. These important and promising strategic projects join our ongoing grant funding of the most innovative ideas from the UK dementia research sector. Together they are helping us to make inroads into fully understanding the causes of dementia, improving diagnosis, uncovering new ways to reduce risk or prevent dementia and, more than ever, to create drugs to stop it in its tracks.

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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.