Alzheimer's group spawns three new R&D centers to advance promising therapies

Alzheimer's Research UK is setting up a trio of discovery units in the Golden Triangle with plans to recruit dozens of investigators to advance new work on therapeutics for the memory-robbing disease.

The $45 million Drug Discovery Alliance will set up research outfits at University College London, Oxford and Cambridge, recruiting 90 investigators who will be tasked with finding effective therapies for Alzheimer's--a tempting but frustrating target in the biotech world.

The basic idea here is that each of these institutes will be led by a chief scientific officer who will bring in projects from academics and put them through a translational program to bring the best ideas into the clinic. The discovery alliance hopes to help make up for what it sees as a lack of early-stage research in the field, noting that there are 6 investigators in oncology for every one now working on the memory-robbing disease of the brain.

This early-stage research effort is counterbalanced by a variety of late-stage efforts underway at Eli Lilly ($LLY), Merck ($MRK) and other major corporations. Despite spending billions of dollars on drug development efforts over the past decade, the industry has suffered a near-100% failure rate in the clinic with no clear consensus on what causes the disease or what the best way of delaying or treating it may be. 

Eric Karran

Dr. Eric Karran, director of research at Alzheimer's Research UK, says that he hopes the idea will spread, with more such institutes springing up at leading academic centers around the world.

"The Drug Discovery Alliance is one of the first of its kind for dementia research in the world," says Karran. "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."

- here's the release