Alzheimer’s research boost with launch of Drug Discovery Institutes

Alzheimer’s Research UK has announced a £30 million Drug Discovery Alliance, launching three flagship Drug Discovery Institutes at the Universities of Cambridge, Oxford and University College London (UCL).

A total of 90 new research scientists will be employed over the next five years in state-of-the-art facilities to speed the development of new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

Each Institute will be led by a Chief Scientific Officer working alongside academic researchers at each of the three universities, plus Alzheimer’s Research UK’s own researchers. Any new ideas and breakthroughs will be accelerated to the research teams to develop potential new medicines.

Dementia affects over 830,000 people in the UK and costs the UK economy £23 billion a year. Increasing political focus on improving the outlook for people with dementia in recent years has led to small increases in research funding, but there remains a lack of effective treatments for those with the condition. It has been 12 years since the last treatment for dementia was licensed in the UK and current treatments are only modestly effective on symptoms and not suitable for all dementias.

Dr Eric Karran, director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Academic research is a goldmine of knowledge about diseases such as Alzheimer’s, and by tapping into the innovation, creativity, ideas and flexibility of scientists in these universities, we can re-energise the search for new dementia treatments. Working in universities and hospitals alongside people affected by dementia and their families, academic researchers are best placed to take research breakthroughs and progress them into real-world benefits for the people that so desperately need them.

“The Drug Discovery Alliance is one of the first of its kind for dementia research in the world. We’re providing the investment and infrastructure that is needed to maintain and grow a healthy pipeline of potential new treatments to take forward into clinical testing. It’s only by boosting the number of promising leads to follow up that we’ll have the best chance of developing pioneering medicines that can change the outlook of this devastating condition.”

Dr Karran said the aim was to create a “scientific tour-de-force”, adding that the group had ambitions to grow over time, attracting new international institutes to coordinate dementia drug discovery efforts worldwide.

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