Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation gets $200M from family of Estée Lauder

The Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, formed 25 years ago in honor of cosmetic business tycoon Estée Lauder, just received $200 million from the Lauder family—the nonprofit’s largest donation ever.

The money—which comes directly from Lauder’s children Leonard and Ronald, along with the entire third generation of the family—will go toward accelerating development of next-gen drugs ADDF has in its pipeline. Founded on a venture philanthropy model in 1998, the nonprofit has invested $253 million into its portfolio thus far via grants and investments for new potential Alzheimer’s drugs, related biomarkers and prevention programs, among other projects.

"When my brother and I began this project 25 years ago, there was little hope on the horizon for Alzheimer’s disease," said Ronald Lauder, ADDF co-chair and co-founder. "As this research continues to progress, we will have prevention programs to slow this disease before it begins, diagnostic tools to tell us what each person’s disease looks like, and effective treatments to eradicate it for future generations."

The foundation currently supports 117 projects, with 75% of clinical trials in its portfolio assessing investigational drugs that take aim at novel targets. Two ADDF-supported clinical studies are currently in phase 3 development: a novel digital therapeutic for neurodegenerative diseases from Cognito Therapeutics and a dopaminergic agonist from the Santa Lucia Foundation.

The ADDF has a history of supporting treatments that are based on the biology of aging and the different processes that go awry as one’s brain ages to cause Alzheimer’s, Howard Fillit, M.D., ADDF co-founder and chief science officer, said in an April 4 release.

The foundation hopes to successfully develop next-gen drugs that can be used in combo with anti-amyloid therapies. ADDF previously put money down for the Amyvid PET scan, which is the first FDA-approved imaging agent used to tell how dense beta-amyloid plaque is in the brain. The diagnostic tool allows drugmakers to track a drug’s ability to clear amyloid, a popular theory based on the foundational belief that reducing or preventing amyloid plaques in the brain may slow cognitive decline.

“We believe we will conquer this disease using precision medicine approaches that have been successful in preventing and treating other diseases of chronic aging, such as cancer,” Fillit said. “The biomarkers being developed by the ADDF’s Diagnostics Accelerator will play a key role, allowing us to pinpoint the best drugs to target the specific causes of each patient’s Alzheimer’s."