Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation Announces New Research Initiative to Advance Digital Tools for Detection of Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias

April 2, 2019

Category: Initiatives

Diagnostics Accelerator

As part of its Diagnostics Accelerator research program, the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF) announced today a new initiative that aims to fast-track the development of digital tools for Alzheimer's disease and related dementias.

The Diagnostics Accelerator program was created in July 2018 with initial funding commitments totaling nearly $35 million from partners including ADDF Co-Founder Leonard Lauder, Bill Gates, the Dolby family, and the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, among others, to develop novel biomarkers for the early detection of Alzheimer's disease and related dementias. Since its inception, the Diagnostics Accelerator program has welcomed additional funders such as The Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration. The latest to join this coalition of philanthropists include Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos, bringing the current program funding to nearly $50 million.

"The Diagnostics Accelerator brings together philanthropic capital with a venture investment mindset to advance bold new ideas for easier and more accurate diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease and related dementias," Lauder said. "Initially, our goal was to raise $35 million to be spent over the next three years. We have exceeded our goal."

In a Gates Notes post published today, Gates reiterated the progress advancing the science of biomarkers for early detection and diagnostics, noting, "It's hard to overstate how important finding a reliable, affordable, and easy-to-use diagnostic is for stopping Alzheimer's." Gates highlighted how the use of advanced technology and digital tools, such as blood tests and mobile phone apps, can help empower doctors, patients, and caregivers, and ultimately lead to better outcomes.

The Diagnostics Accelerator was created to address the lack of biomarkers that easily and more specifically screen and diagnose patients, stage disease progression, monitor response to treatment, and improve the rigor and efficiency of clinical trials. All are critical to the development of effective drugs for the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer's.

"The interest from the philanthropic as well as the scientific community has been tremendous," said Howard Fillit, MD, Founding Executive Director and Chief Science Officer of the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation. "The ADDF is excited to expand its research support for the development of digital biomarkers that will augment traditional lab tests and imaging tools with creative and cost-effective approaches to collect, track, and analyze patient data."

Digital tools may allow the remote capture of changes in a patient's physical and mental status at various stages of Alzheimer's disease. Information gathered can span from cognitive assessments to motor ability to sleep disruptions. "This real-world evidence has the potential to add significant value to clinical trials, increasing patient engagement, enhancing monitoring, and greatly improving treatment outcomes," Dr. Fillit said.

Funding provided through the Diagnostics Accelerator Digital Biomarker Initiative is open to scientists and clinicians worldwide working in:

  • Academic medical centers, universities, or other nonprofits. Industry partnerships are encouraged.
  • Biotechnology companies. Funding is provided through mission-related investments. Existing companies and new start-ups are both eligible.

Rigorous scientific and where applicable business due diligence will be conducted by the ADDF on each proposal. For more information and/or to apply for funding, click here.

About the Diagnostics Accelerator

The Diagnostics Accelerator is a partnership of funders dedicated to accelerating the development of affordable and accessible biomarkers to diagnose Alzheimer's disease and related dementias, and to advance the development of more targeted treatments. Through translational research awards and access to consulting support from industry experts, this program will challenge the research community to develop novel fluid and digital biomarkers.