Alzheimer’s Initiative Widens Research Focus on Frontotemporal Degeneration With New $5M Commitment

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by Mary Chapman |

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Alzheimer's research funding

With a new $5-million commitment, the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation’s (ADDF) Diagnostics Accelerator initiative is expanding its focus on frontotemporal degeneration, the most common form of dementia for individuals under 60.

The funds come from a new research pledge of $2.5 million from The Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration (AFTD), which is being matched by a $2.5-million allocation of funds from the ADDF’s Diagnostics Accelerator initiative, which was launched last summer as a venture philanthropy vehicle with seed money from philanthropist Bill Gates, among others.

The program is part of a three-year, $35-million plan to develop new biomarkers for diseases such as Alzheimer’s and FTD, a group of disorders caused by progressive nerve cell loss in the brain’s frontal or temporal lobes.

Biomarkers can be used to predict the likelihood an individual will develop a disease, more easily identify patients for clinical trials, and more accurately monitor response to treatments. Current tests for Alzheimer’s are pricey and invasive.

“Early and accurate diagnosis is the key to any research gains for those who suffer from dementia,” Susan L-J Dickinson, AFTD’s chief executive officer, said in a press release. “It’s the key to effective participation in clinical trials, the development of therapeutics and, down the road, a cure.”

Added Howard Fillit, ADDF’s founding executive director and chief science officer: “In order to develop treatments for dementia, we need to be able to diagnose it as early as possible and, just as important, determine specifically what type of dementia we’re dealing with. That requires biomarkers that are both sensitive and specific, and investing in FTD biomarkers will be an important way to advance the science for all forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s.”

The majority of FTD cases occur between the ages of 45 and 64, and are frequently misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s or a psychiatric condition, according to the AFTD. The condition can affect personality, behavior, language, and movement. There are no treatments to slow or stop disease progression.

The ADDF seeks to accelerate the discovery of drugs to treat and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s, a disease that affects 10 percent of people age 65 and older, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

The non-profit AFTD’s mission is to improve the quality of life of people affected by FTD and drive research toward better treatments.