Foundation research

City Life Org – NYC’s Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation: Eye scans and blood tests to speed up early detection: Lauder, Gates, Bezos and new partners increase support for diagnostic accelerator

RetiSpec is developing a retinal test that turns the eye into a ‘window on the brain’, detecting neurodegenerative changes through retinal imaging. Photo: RetiSpec

• Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation launches the second phase of its Diagnostics Accelerator program, doubling down on efforts to accelerate promising diagnostics, including blood tests, eye scans and digital tools

• Expanded list of funders and partners, including the NFL Players Association, Eli Lilly & Company, Biogen and Shanahan Family Foundation, reflects the urgent need to develop more accessible, non-invasive tools to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease early

• Diagnostic tools and biomarkers are crucial to developing more effective therapies for patients

The Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF) announces the second phase of its diagnostics accelerator with new philanthropic partners and an additional $50 million financial commitment, bringing total capital to $100 million intended to accelerate the development of new innovative tests for the early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

Buoyed by progress since the diagnostic accelerator launched in 2018, new funders include the NFL Players Association (NFLPA), Eli Lilly & Company, Biogen and the Shanahan Family Foundation. These organizations joined early backers Leonard A. Lauder, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and the Dolby family, who stepped up their support to fund bold ideas for simpler, more accurate, and accessible tools for earlier detection of Alzheimer’s disease and associated dementias. Other initial funders included MacKenzie Scott, the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, and the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration.

“Four years ago, we launched the Diagnostics Accelerator with the ADDF to accelerate new research to find a simple yet reliable test to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease early in its progression,” says Niranjan Bose, Managing Director, Healthcare and Life Sciences at Gates Ventures. “Thanks to the work of funded researchers, there are now dozens of new biomarkers in development that are critical to advancing new therapies for Alzheimer’s disease and helping us better understand the disease.”

The Diagnostic Accelerator’s mission is critical for the more than six million Americans currently living with Alzheimer’s disease, half of whom are undiagnosed. This number is expected to triple by 2060. It is well documented that changes in the brain begin a decade or more before the disease becomes apparent, which means that tens of millions of Americans have no symptoms, but live with undiagnosed Alzheimer’s disease.

“The day will soon come when there will be blood tests, eye scans and smart phone apps to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease, just as simple tests can diagnose hypertension, diabetes or high cholesterol,” says Howard Fillit, MD, Co-Founder and Chief Scientific Officer. at the ADDF. “We can’t slow or stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease without first finding a simple way to diagnose it early, and with the support of strategic partnerships like the Diagnosis Accelerator, we’re well on our way. . Our goal is to bring more diagnostic tools to patients and doctors in the next five years.

“Through this partnership with the ADDF, our contributions will help the scientific community advance its research so that physicians and patients have better tools to confirm a diagnosis and ultimately prevent and treat this disease,” said DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFLPA. . “Our support for this collaborative research effort reflects our union’s ongoing commitment to improving the health and well-being of our players, fellow athletes and society as a whole.”

In addition to bringing the early and specific diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease into the mainstream of doctors’ offices, diagnostic tools and biomarkers are key to improving the design of clinical trials and rapidly advancing potential treatments for patients. .

“We are at a pivotal time in Alzheimer’s disease research, thanks in large part to advances in diagnostics available today,” said Anne White, senior vice president and president, Lilly Neuroscience, Eli Lilly and Company. “At Lilly, we are committed to building on these advances and breaking down barriers to ensure patients have broad access to advanced diagnostics to support rapid and accurate diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Tests launched under the Diagnostics Accelerator program can help researchers and physicians identify patients in the early stages of the disease, consider available therapies, and aid in the development of innovative therapies through clinical trials – which all have the potential to improve lives for people with Alzheimer’s disease and their loved ones.

Biomarkers are essential for drug development and precision medicine

Alzheimer’s disease is linked to the biology of aging, a scientific approach long advocated by the ADDF and now widely accepted in the field. The disease is likely caused by a combination of age-related changes in the brain, such as inflammation, metabolic dysfunction, decreased blood flow, and genetic alterations. The Diagnostics Accelerator focuses on developing diagnostic biomarkers for each of these underlying causes, casting a wide net to fund innovative research around the world.

According to Dr. Fillit, as with cancer, precision medicine will one day allow doctors to predict which treatment and prevention strategies will work more accurately in different at-risk populations of people with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. Precision medicine is an approach to disease treatment and prevention that takes into account the individual variability of each person’s genes, environment and lifestyle.

Many diagnostic tools under study

To date, the Diagnostics Accelerator has invested approximately $50 million in more than 40 global research projects focused on developing accessible diagnostics, including blood tests, eye scans and digital technologies to detect early and very subtle changes. signaling Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. The next phase will build on these investments and provide additional resources to support the commercialization of diagnostics that are currently in advanced research, including projects that have already progressed with Diagnostics Accelerator funding. Among the promising projects:

• A blood plasma microRNA biomarker test that can predict who will progress from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s disease from DiamiR.

• A retinal test under development by RetiSpec that turns the eye into a ‘window to the brain’, detecting neurodegenerative changes through retinal imaging.

• Digital technology, including a mobile phone and tablet-based platform from Altoida, which recently received FDA Breakthrough Device designation.


Founded in 1998 by Leonard A. and Ronald S. Lauder, the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation is dedicated to rapidly accelerating the discovery of drugs to prevent, treat and cure Alzheimer’s disease. The ADDF is the only public charity focused exclusively on funding drug development for Alzheimer’s disease, employing a venture philanthropy model to support research in universities and the biotech industry. The ADDF’s leadership and contributions in the field have been pivotal in bringing to market the first PET scanner (Amyvid™) and blood test (PrecivityAD™) for Alzheimer’s disease, as well as in fueling today’s robust and diverse drug pipeline. Through the generosity of its donors, the ADDF has awarded more than $209 million to fund more than 690 Alzheimer’s disease drug discovery programs, biomarker programs and clinical trials in 19 countries. To learn more, please visit:

RetiSpec is developing a retinal test that turns the eye into a ‘window on the brain’, detecting neurodegenerative changes through retinal imaging. Photo: RetiSpec