The Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF) has announced the first group of researchers who will receive funding for their work on early-diagnosis Alzheimer’s tests. The funding comes from a new research program called Diagnostics Accelerator, which aims to address the urgent need for fast, affordable, and easy-to-use diagnostic tests and biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.
“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,” said Howard Fillit, MD, Founding Executive Director and Chief Science Officer of the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation.
“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,” he explained.
The ADDF, funded by a coalition of philanthropists including ADDF Co-Founder Leonard Lauder, Bill Gates and Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos, will award up to $50 million over the next three years.
This first round of awards focused on biomarkers in the blood, eye, and other fluids and tissues. The next round, to be awarded at the end of 2019, will center around digital tests.
Related: Is There an Alzheimer’s Blood Test?
The Most Innovative Research on Alzheimer’s Blood and Eye Tests
After analyzing 300 proposals for new diagnostic strategies, a group of scientific reviewers selected the following four researchers and their work for funding:
Saliha Moussaoui, PhD – Amoneta Diagnostics SAS (up to $2 million), France: Amoneta is working on a rapid, non-invasive diagnostic test to predict mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and early Alzheimer’s disease. The proposed test measures two species of ribonucleic acids that are stable in the blood and show promise in the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease.
Kaj Blennow, MD, PhD – University of Gothenburg ($500,000), Sweden: Blennow 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. He will now extend this tau approach into blood.
Tom MacGillivray, PhD – University of Edinburgh ($488,997), Scotland: MacGillivray’s research uses a novel combination of retina biomarkers that capture neurodegeneration and blood vessel 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 eye scan device software.
Peter van Wijngaarden, PhD – Centre for Eye Research Australia ($420,321), affiliated with University of Melbourne, Australia: van Wijngaarden will test a simplified eye scan, which can detect amyloid in the retina before signs of cognitive decline. The team is developing a more portable and inexpensive prototype camera. The study will determine whether this novel eye imaging technique can replace expensive PET imaging or invasive cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) tests for Alzheimer’s diagnosis and be used to detect early signs of Alzheimer’s prior to signs of cognitive decline.