Alzheimer’s Research UK has unveiled a £30-million drug discovery project under which three new flagship discovery Institutes at the Universities of Cambridge, Oxford and University College London will drive the search for new treatments.

The Drug Discovery Institutes will employ 90 new research scientists in “state-of-the-art facilities” to fast-track the development of experimental therapies over the next five years to help address the drought in news dementia medicines hitting the market.

Under guidance from a Chief Scientific Officer, new ideas from academic research teams in each university, and beyond, “will be driven straight into the hands of dedicated biology and chemistry teams in each Institute, expert in designing and developing potential new medicines,” the charity said.

Dementia affects over 830,000 people in the UK and costs the economy £23 billion a year. And yet, despite a much greater political focus on the area and small increases in research funding, there remains a “desperate lack of effective treatments”, the last new dementia drug having been approved in the UK more than a decade ago.

2025 pledge

Health leaders from across the world recently pledged a research ambition for a disease-modifying therapy for dementia by 2025, and AR UK says its Drug Discovery Alliance will make a “major contribution” to delivering this.

“We’re providing the investment and infrastructure that is needed to maintain and grow a healthy pipeline of potential new treatments to take forward into clinical testing,” said Eric Karran, Director of Research at the charity. “It’s only by boosting the number of promising leads to follow-up, that we’ll have the best chance of developing pioneering medicines that can change the outlook of this devastating condition.”