Over half a million for dementia drug discovery research in Cambridge 

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By Alex Smith | Monday 20 May 2019

Prof David Rubinsztein at the University of Cambridge has been awarded over £500k from leading dementia research charity, Alzheimer’s Research UK. The new funding will support research into a way to tackle diseases like Alzheimer’s by boosting the brain’s waste disposal system.

The announcement comes on Dementia Action Week, a national initiative aiming to raise awareness of dementia and to encourage people to join efforts to help those affected by the condition.

There are 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia, including over 11,000 people in Cambridgeshire alone. There are currently no treatments to stop or slow the diseases that cause the dementia, most commonly Alzheimer’s disease. Without new breakthroughs it is estimated that one in three people born this year will develop some form of dementia in their lifetime.

Prof David Rubinsztein from the University of Cambridge has spent many years researching how the diseases that cause dementia develop in the brain. His team in Cambridge discovered that a cellular process called autophagy can clear away proteins that trigger these diseases. Prof Rubinsztein is now leading research into ways to boost autophagy, a promising new approach to tackle diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Cambridgeshire-based Alzheimer’s Research UK has awarded Prof Rubinsztein more than £500,000 for a new project taking a closer look at key proteins released by the body’s immune cells. These proteins represent a promising target for drugs that could speed up autophagy and help to clear harmful proteins from the brain.

Prof David Rubinsztein, said:

“Most diseases that cause dementia involve a build up of harmful proteins in the brain. For more than a decade there has been a focus on developing drugs that could tackle these proteins directly, but this approach hasn’t yet led to treatments that improve people’s symptoms.

“Meanwhile there has been huge progress in our understanding of the complex biology of diseases like Alzheimer’s. This has opened the door to a range of promising new approaches that could slow down damage to the brain and help limit the devastating impact these diseases have on people’s lives.”

Dr Sara Imarisio, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“Cambridge is a city brimming with scientific talent and it’s a hub for pioneering dementia research. Prof Rubinsztein is leading the way in a hugely exciting area of science that holds enormous potential.”

“As the Lead Academic Scientist at our ALBORADA Drug Discovery Institute, Prof Rubinsztein is ideally placed to capitalise on the latest discoveries from academic research and translate this new understanding into drugs that could be tested in clinical trials.

“‘We’re getting closer to developing new dementia treatments and research like this will help speed up the search for life-changing breakthroughs. This progress is only possible thanks to the ingenuity of researchers like Prof Rubinsztein, the vital funds we receive from our supporters, and volunteers who participate in research.

“Anyone who would like to find out more about how they can support efforts to overcome dementia can visit www.alzheimersresearchuk.org

About the author

Alex Smith