Public Release: 

New Alzheimer's Association research grants accelerate studies of potential drug therapies

Initiative fills gap in funding for early-phase clinical drug trials

Alzheimer's Association

CHICAGO, January 26, 2015 - Many academic researchers and pharmaceutical companies have identified new Alzheimer's drug therapy candidates, but lack the funding to move them into human testing. At the same time, few funding sources support early-phase clinical drug trials. As a result, too many promising studies stall out early in the discovery process. Today, the Alzheimer's Association announces new grant awards for five early-phase clinical trials attempting to span this troublesome gap in research.

The newly awarded grants are funded through the Alzheimer's Association Part the Cloud Translational Research for Alzheimer's Disease initiative, which supports research critical to transitioning early, exploratory laboratory studies to Phase 1 clinical drug trials in humans. The new awards total nearly $4 million, increasing the total amount awarded through the initiative since its inception to $6 million.

"New treatments that prevent, stop or slow the progression of Alzheimer's are desperately needed," said Maria Carrillo, Ph.D., Chief Science Officer for the Alzheimer's Association. "While there are Alzheimer's medications currently approved for use that address the worsening of symptoms, they are effective in only some people and work for a limited period of time. For these reasons, the Part the Cloud initiative is now an essential part of the Alzheimer's Association research funding efforts."

The new grant awards will go to:

  • Tim West, Ph.D. at C2N Diagnostics in St Louis, for a Phase 1 clinical trial to explore the safety and efficacy of an antibody against build-up of the protein tau--which is responsible for the hallmark "tangles" in the brains of individuals with Alzheimer's disease--to treat individuals with Alzheimer's or progressive supranuclear palsy, in which tau accumulation is also present.

  • Whitney Wharton, Ph.D., at Emory University in Atlanta, to conduct a Phase 1b clinical trial to explore whether the FDA-approved anti-hypertensive drug, perindopril, may work to reduce Alzheimer's risk in African-Americans.

  • Giulio Pasinetti, Ph.D., at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, for a Phase 1b clinical trial to examine the safety and tolerability of a combination treatment using three grape-derived compounds in individuals with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease.

  • Russell Swerdlow, M.D., at the University of Kansas Clinical Research Center in Fairway, to conduct a Phase 1b clinical trial to explore the safety and efficacy of the chemical compound oxaloacetate as an alternative energy source for the brain in individuals with Alzheimer's disease.

  • Stephen Cunnane, Ph.D., at the University of Sherbrooke in Quebec, Canada, to support a Phase 1b/2a clinical trial to explore the safety and efficacy of a new dietary supplement as an alternative energy source for the brain in people with memory changes.

Unique from other Alzheimer's Association grants, Part the Cloud funding is available to for-profit entities--such as pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies--since the focus is early-stage drug development.

"These latest awards support both academic- and industry-launched projects that hold great promise for effective treatments that otherwise would have not been possible without this funding," adds Carrillo.

The Part the Cloud initiative is funded by proceeds generated through annual benefit events founded in 2012 by Atherton, California, resident Michaela Hoag. Initially intended to accelerate Alzheimer's research in the San Francisco Bay Area, the initiative has expanded to support research projects globally.

The Part the Cloud grants are part of a larger overall research funding effort from the Alzheimer's Association, which currently supports 350 ongoing research projects in 20 countries. Since 1982, the Association has awarded nearly $340 million to more than 2,250 projects.

Alzheimer's is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. It kills more Americans each year than diabetes, and more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease, according to the Alzheimer's Association 2014 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures report. By 2050, the number of people with Alzheimer's may nearly triple, to as many as 16 million, barring the development of medical breakthroughs to prevent, slow or stop the disease.

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For more information, visit the Alzheimer's Association at alz.org.

About the Alzheimer's Association

The Alzheimer's Association is the world's leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer's care, support and research. It is the largest nonprofit funder of Alzheimer's research. The Association's mission is to eliminate Alzheimer's disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health. Its vision is a world without Alzheimer's. Visit http://www.alz.org or call 800.272.3900.

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