Leading Foundations Partner to Accelerate Critical Biomarker Research in AD and Related Dementias

March 24, 2014

Category: Initiatives

Outcomes Could Lead to Development of New and Cost-Effective Tools for Early Detection

The Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Initiative (ADDI) at the New York Academy of Sciences (the Academy) in partnership with the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF), and with generous support by AstraZeneca, Janssen, Lilly, Merck, and Takeda, has awarded a $140,000 challenge grant to Blaine Roberts, PhD, Head of the Metalloproteomics Laboratory at The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health in Australia. Dr. Roberts will be conducting research to validate a developmental blood test for Alzheimer’s disease. 

“Alzheimer’s disease is a growing public health issue that requires collaboration from industry, academia and government leaders,” said Ellis Rubinstein, president and chief executive officer of the Academy. “We believe that this partnership offers us a unique opportunity to convene valuable resources to advance promising research.”

Dr. Roberts and team have identified three plasma proteins that could be used as biomarkers, or biological indicators of Alzheimer’s disease in the brain. The proteins in the blood will be tested for their ability to correlate to amyloid plaques in the brain – one of the defining features of Alzheimer’s disease. His team also hopes to develop hypotheses on interventions that may delay onset of Alzheimer’s disease and eventually develop a cost-effective diagnostic test to screen for Alzheimer’s 15- 20 years before the manifestation of symptoms.

“We calculate that the blood test we are developing will reduce the cost of patient recruitment for clinical trials by more than half, and help identify specific therapies to treat individuals with the pathology,” said Dr. Roberts.

The discovery and development of treatments for Alzheimer’s disease has been stymied by a lack of definitive clinical diagnosis that would help identify appropriate patients, particularly in the early presymptomatic stage for investigational studies. The diagnostic test could be an affordable non-invasive blood-based alternative to current methods used in major clinical trials. 

“There is tremendous benefit from detecting Alzheimer’s early not only in costs, but also quality of life for patients, caregivers and the public,” said Howard Fillit, MD, executive director and chief science officer of the ADDF. “We are so excited to partner with the New York Academy of Sciences and other industry experts to accelerate cutting edge research to prevent, treat and cure this devastating neurodegenerative disease.” 

This project will yield greater understanding of how biomarkers and amyloid levels in the brain correlate. Research is being conducted in conjunction with the Cooperative Research Centre for Mental Health in Australia, in which industry and clinical end-users will help Dr. Roberts and his team ensure that the study is integrated into medical and healthcare products.

About the Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Initiative

The New York Academy of Sciences’ Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia Initiative (ADDI) aims to accelerate the transfer of basic research about disease mechanisms into the development of diagnostics, preventative measures, and disease-modifying therapeutics—through an international, multi-sector partnership focused on Alzheimer's disease and dementia. For more information, please visit For more information on Dr. Roberts’ research project, please visit

About the New York Academy of Sciences

The New York Academy of Sciences is an independent, not-for-profit organization that since 1817 has been committed to advancing science, technology, and society worldwide. With 22,000 members in 100 countries, the Academy is creating a global community of science for the benefit of humanity. The Academy's core mission is to advance scientific knowledge, positively impact the major global challenges of society with science-based solutions, and increase the number of scientifically informed individuals in society at large. For more information, please visit