New Funding Supports Blood Test for Early Alzheimer’s

September 5, 2017

Category: New Grants

The Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF) announces two new grants, including support for a blood test designed to detect Alzheimer’s disease in early stages of development and a gene therapy for frontotemporal dementia.

Dr. Howard Fillit, Founding Executive Director and Chief Science Officer of the ADDF, says: “The ADDF seed-funded the first approved neuroimaging test for Alzheimer’s. And we are committed to bringing more diagnostic tools to the field. Blood tests are low-cost and would enable many patients to be screened and, in the future, treated. ”


Peter Stys, MD, University of Calgary
A Blood Test to Predict Alzheimer's Based on Fluorescence Spectroscopy
Currently the only diagnostic tests for Alzheimer’s disease are invasive or expensive, so they are not routinely used as a screening tool. This limits the ability to detect Alzheimer’s early and also to test potential prevention options. Dr. Stys is developing an inexpensive, non-invasive blood test for diagnosing the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s, before symptoms are present. The test detects abnormally folded beta-amyloid protein—the main component of Alzheimer’s “plaques”—in blood cells with advanced microscopic imaging and fluorescent dyes. The innovative approach uses custom-written algorithms to distinguish healthy patients from those with mild cognitive impairment and very early Alzheimer’s. In this project, Dr. Stys and his team will check the results of their blood test against clinical diagnoses and cerebrospinal fluid tests to validate its accuracy. Their goal is to develop a low-cost test for early Alzheimer’s to enable more reliable selection of patients for clinical trials now, and early use of effective treatments in the future.



Justin Ichida, PhD, University of Southern California
A Novel Neuroprotective Compound Targeting Endogenous Function of C9ORF72
Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is a less common form of dementia that has no treatment options and very few potential drugs in clinical trials. A genetic abnormality in the gene C9ORF72 is the most common cause of this disease, accounting for about 10% of FTD cases. Dr. Ichida has discovered a novel compound that appears to protect neurons from two of the toxic effects of C9ORF72. With this funding, Dr. Ichida and his team will conduct preclinical tests of a similar compound that has been used in clinical trials for other diseases. The study will determine its efficacy as a proof-of-concept for this novel therapeutic approach for C9ORF72-induced FTD. Positive results from this study will be essential in providing the rationale to chemically optimize their novel compound to improve its stability and ability to reach the brain. Dr. Ichida is collaborating with the biotechnology company AccuraStem, which has expertise in moving drug development programs to clinical trials.

This grant is funded through the ADDF’s partnership program with the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration (AFTD).