Major Research Funding for Blood Test to Accelerate Clinical Trials for New Frontotemporal Degeneration (FTD) Therapies

November 22, 2019

Category: New Grants

The Bluefield Project to Cure FTD Receives $1.2 Million Award from the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation’s Diagnostics Accelerator

The Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF) and The Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration (AFTD) announced today a major funding investment to the Bluefield Project to Cure FTD. The award is the first FTD investment through ADDF’s Diagnostics Accelerator, an initiative aimed to fast track the development of diagnostics tests and novel biomarkers for early, effective detection of Alzheimer's disease and related dementias.

ADDF’s $50 million Diagnostics Accelerator initiative will invest up to $5 million to projects focused on the development of biomarkers for frontotemporal degeneration (FTD) in partnership with AFTD. FTD is a rare disease but is the most common dementia for people under 60. In Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia, the limited number of biomarkers available today are measured by tests in cerebral spinal fluid and neuroimaging scans such as PET and MRI.

Currently, there are no disease-modifying treatments, nor is there a cure for FTD, but new therapies are in development. A growing number of therapies in emergent clinical trials are targeting genetic causes of FTD. Approximately 25% of FTD cases are caused by inherited genetic mutations. Biomarkers are critical to this effort of developing drug therapies.

Through this initial Diagnostics Accelerator investment in FTD research, the Bluefield Project will receive a $1.2 million award to validate an exploratory blood test to determine the optimal time to begin potential treatment for individuals at-risk for FTD caused by a genetic mutation.

Howard Fillit., M.D., Founding Executive Director and Chief Science Officer at the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, said: “Investing in novel FTD biomarkers, such as blood tests, will be crucial in advancing our ability to make earlier diagnoses and accelerating clinical drug trials. This will not only be useful for people with a genetic mutation, but for all individuals and families facing FTD.”

The Bluefield Project to Cure FTD is a nonprofit research foundation focused on translating FTD research into the development of new drugs targeting FTD caused by the GRN mutation. This funding will allow the Bluefield team to evaluate blood NfL (neurofilament light chain protein) levels in individuals that carry any one of three common genetic mutations that puts them at risk for FTD, but who do not yet show any disease symptoms. NfL is a protein found exclusively in the brain but can be detected in the blood when cells in the brain start to break down due to disease or injury. The success of this test will support more efficient clinical trials, which will hopefully lead to effective treatments for FTD.

“Most families face a very long journey to an accurate diagnosis: nearly four years on average,” said AFTD’s CEO, Susan L-J Dickinson. “Through the Diagnostics Accelerator, we are hopeful that our investment in FTD biomarkers will bring earlier, more accurate diagnosis as well as more effective clinical trials,” she added. “This is the key to the development of therapeutics, and eventually, a cure for this devastating dementia.”

About AFTD

Founded in 2002, The Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration (AFTD) is the leading U.S. nonprofit working to improve the lives of people with FTD, their care partners and loved ones. AFTD promotes and funds research toward diagnosis, treatment and a cure for FTD; stimulates greater public awareness; provides information and support to those directly impacted; fosters education for healthcare professionals; and advocates for appropriate, affordable services. AFTD’s signature research efforts include the FTD Biomarkers Initiative, a multi-year effort to fund innovative approaches to the discovery and development of urgently needed FTD biomarkers. AFTD envisions a world with compassionate care, effective support and a future free of FTD.