Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation announces first round of awards of Diagnostics Accelerator initiative

The Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF) announced today the first group of researchers who will receive funding through its Diagnostics Accelerator, a new research program that aims to fast-track the development of diagnostic tools and biomarkers for Alzheimer's disease and related dementias.

With funding from a coalition of philanthropists, including ADDF Co-Founder Leonard Lauder, Bill Gates and Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos, among others, the ADDF will award up to $50 million over the next three years. Through its first Request for Proposals (released July 2018), which focused on biomarkers in the blood, eye, and other peripheral fluids and tissues, at least 10 awards are anticipated to be funded this year totaling up to $10 million. A second RFP around digital tests was released in April with the first funding awards expected at the end of the year.

We are thrilled to announce the first round of awards of the Diagnostics Accelerator initiative. After an extensive review, we selected research that showed promise in accelerating the development of innovative diagnostic tools, such as blood tests and eye scans. Unlike heart disease and cancer, we lack simple and cost-effective diagnostic tools and biomarkers that are critical to finding ways to prevent and treat Alzheimer's disease. Once we have them, we will better understand how Alzheimer's progresses and make clinical drug trials more efficient and rigorous."

Howard Fillit, MD, Founding Executive Director and Chief Science Officer of the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation

Award recipients will be recognized at the ADDF's Thirteenth Annual Connoisseur's Dinner held at Sotheby's in New York City, May 30th.

The first four awards from this first RFP total up to approximately $3.5 million. Nearly 300 letters of intent proposing new diagnostic strategies from 30 countries on six continents were reviewed by the ADDF working closely with external scientific reviewers and a Joint Steering Committee. Acclaimed researchers include:

  • Saliha Moussaoui, PhD - Amoneta Diagnostics SAS (up to $2 million), France: Amoneta is developing a rapid non-invasive diagnostic test to predict mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and early Alzheimer's disease (in support of the MemoryLINC project). The proposed test panel measures two species of ribonucleic acids that are stable in the blood and show promise in early detection of Alzheimer's disease.
  • Kaj Blennow, MD, PhD - University of Gothenburg ($500,000), Sweden: Dr. Blennow's team is developing the first ultra-sensitive blood test for brain-specific tau. His team has identified brain-derived tau fragments in the cerebral spinal fluid that correlate well with Alzheimer's disease neuropathology and will now extend this unique approach into blood.
  • Tom MacGillivray, PhD - University of Edinburgh ($488,997), Scotland: This study employs a novel combination of retinal biomarkers capturing neurodegeneration and vasculature dysfunction often found in Alzheimer's disease with advanced imaging analyses. The results of this project, if successful, may be offered for widespread use as a cloud-based system for analyzing retinal images or incorporated into the eye scan device software.
  • Peter van Wijngaarden, PhD - Centre for Eye Research Australia ($420,321), affiliated with University of Melbourne, Australia: Dr. van Wijngaarden's study will test a simplified eye scan, which can detect amyloid in the retina prior to signs of cognitive decline. The team is developing a more portable and inexpensive prototype camera. The study will establish whether this novel eye imaging technique can replace expensive PET imaging or invasive CSF tests for Alzheimer's diagnosis and be used to detect early signs of Alzheimer's prior to signs of cognitive decline.

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