Ronald and Leonard Lauder created the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF) in 1998 with a singular focus: funding the development of new treatments for Alzheimer’s. Since then, we have invested over $100 million in the best ideas to cure Alzheimer's, and we are now seeing the impact of our efforts.
When we started, there was very little funding for drug discovery, so there wasn’t much hope in the pipeline of potential new drugs. The ADDF was determined to change that. We knew there were researchers with innovative ideas for ways to treat and prevent Alzheimer’s disease. We sought them out and helped those researchers develop their ideas into drugs, in some cases supporting them for over 15 years.
Today, as a result, there are over 100 clinical trials in Alzheimer’s disease. And the ADDF has contributed funding to more than 20%, a truly remarkable contribution by a single foundation.
It’s critical that more drugs reach clinical trials—the final stages of drug development—but it’s equally important that those drugs have diverse targets. Alzheimer’s is a complex disease and likely can’t be treated with just one drug. So the ADDF takes risks on new ideas and new approaches to tackle Alzheimer’s—from inflammation to genetics, neuroprotection, vascular issues, and more.
One of the most promising of these is C-31, a drug developed by Dr. Frank Longo of PharmatrophiX. Back in 2000, Dr. Longo came to us with a radical idea to protect brain cells from damage and halt the progression of Alzheimer’s. We gave him seed funding and kept supporting him as he developed that radical idea into a drug, founded a biotech company, and began clinical trials. Today, C-31 is in phase 2 clinical trials and continuing to advance.
And Dr. Longo’s story isn’t unique. The ADDF has supported many other visionary researchers. At Vanderbilt University, Dr. Paul Newhouse and Dr. Jerri Rook spent years developing VU0467319. This drug, which is entering phase 1 trials, preserves memories by improving the connections between our brain cells. And Dr. R. Scott Turner at Georgetown is recruiting patients for a phase 2 clinical trial of nilotinib, a drug approved for leukemia that has shown promise for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Even more drugs supported by the ADDF are poised to make it to clinical trials this year, including MW 150 by Dr. Martin Watterson at Northwestern, M3 Biotechnology’s NDX-1017, and Dr. Linda Van Eldik’s MW 189 at the University of Kentucky. But there are many, many more drugs out there, in need of support.
While the ADDF invests 100% of every dollar donated to us in drug discovery research, we still aren’t able to support every worthy idea. Last year, we were only able to fund 5% of the requests we received: one in 20. But with your help, we can and will fund more.
We will keep driving promising drugs forward to clinical trials until effective treatments reach the hands of people who need them. People like my father, who died of Alzheimer’s, and your loved ones. People like my patients. People like us.
Howard Fillit, MD is the Founding Executive Director and Chief Science Officer at the ADDF.