Local charitable trust invests £10m in dementia drug discovery

Cambridge DDI group photo
Cambridge DDI group photo

By Aoife Cosgrave | Tuesday 03 October 2023

The ALBORADA Trust, based near Newmarket, has donated £5 million to Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity.

The donation supports the ALBORADA Drug Discovery Institute (DDI) at the University of Cambridge and builds on a previous transformational £5m gift made by the Trust towards the project five years ago.

The ALBORADA DDI is one of three specialist institutes created within top UK universities that form Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Drug Discovery Alliance, a £91 million initiative launched in 2015. The Alliance is unique in neurodegenerative research in the UK, bridging the gap between academia and industry.

Founded by philanthropist Kirsten Rausing, and named after her favourite racehorse, The ALBORADA Trust funds a range of causes in the UK and overseas and has long been a significant supporter of medical research.

Grant Harris, director of The ALBORADA Trust, said: “At The ALBORADA Trust we believe in the power of medical research to deliver transformational change and we are delighted to have supported the groundbreaking work of Alzheimer’s Research UK for over a decade.

“This gift takes our investment in the ALBORADA Drug Discovery Institute to £10m, making it our biggest ever commitment as a funder. We are proud to be driving forward the development of much-needed new treatments for dementia, and to be doing so through world-class research taking place on our doorstep.”

The ALBORADA DDI is led by Dr John Skidmore, who brings commercial drug development expertise with him from GlaxoSmithKline. The DDI team works closely with top researchers at the University of Cambridge and global collaborators to identify the most promising ‘targets’ coming from basic science. These targets are then fast-tracked into the early stages of drug discovery, to test their potential to deliver treatments.

“We are immensely grateful to The ALBORADA Trust for the instrumental role they have played in supporting our drug discovery research here in Cambridge. We are currently seeing unprecedented progress in dementia drug development, with the first treatments that can slow the course of Alzheimer’s disease set for UK approval as soon as January 2024. But, as with many first-generation treatments, the effectiveness of these drugs is modest – and sadly they will not help everyone”, said Dr Skidmore. Adding, “We must keep up the momentum and continue to develop more and increasingly effective drugs to treat the diseases that cause dementia. This most recent investment from The ALBORADA Trust will play a key part in accelerating progress towards new dementia treatments and, in time, a cure.”

Pharmaceutical and biotech partners are involved throughout, ready to take the most promising compounds forward into clinical trials. This is a model that has already proved highly successful in bringing new cancer treatments to patients and the Alliance is central to Alzheimer’s Research UK’s drug discovery work.

Dr Susan Kohlhaas, Executive Director of Research & Partnerships at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “The ALBORADA Trust’s recent £5 million gift has come at a pivotal time in dementia research. We have seen in recent months that, through research, we can slow down the diseases that cause dementia. However, with over 1.2 million people in the UK predicted to have dementia by 2040, we must speed up efforts to treat the condition.

“Dementia can be caused by many different diseases which have complex molecular mechanisms – this means we need to develop treatments which work in different ways, so that there is an appropriate treatment for someone whatever form of dementia they have. The Trust’s exceptional commitment of £10m to the ALBORADA Drug Discovery Institute is allowing us to explore different ways to tackle diseases like Alzheimer’s and enabling us to develop treatments for rarer forms such as frontotemporal dementia. On behalf of Alzheimer’s Research UK, our research community and everyone we support, I would like to express our huge gratitude to The ALBORADA Trust for helping us lead the way in the search for a cure for dementia.”

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Aoife Cosgrave