Why did the former richest man in the world join forces to start this project?

▎WuXi AppTec Content Team Editor

The Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF) announced today that it has received an additional $50 million in grants with the help of philanthropic partners. It also boosted development funding for its Alzheimer’s Disease ‘Diagnostic Accelerator’ to $100 million! These research funds will be used to accelerate the development of innovative diagnostic tools for the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s “Diagnostic Accelerator” was officially launched in 2018. The founders include Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, two former richest people in the world, and the co-founder of ADDF , philanthropist Leonard A. Lauder and other individuals and institutions are also important sponsors of this project.

In the WuXi AppTec series of public welfare forums, many experts mentioned that in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, “If the disease can be diagnosed at an early stage and treated , potentially attenuating disease progression”, yet many patients go undiagnosed at all. Even if there is an opportunity for a diagnosis, it does not mean an accurate diagnosis.

Alzheimer’s disease also presents diagnostic bottlenecks—existing diagnostic tests are expensive, invasive, and patient-inflicted. With the rapid development of biotechnology and the continuous iteration of genetic tools in recent years, “biomarker” testing has become an emerging field of diagnostics. Just as in the diagnosis of cancer, doctors will use some indicators in the blood test or cell-free DNA from the tumor to assist in the judgment, if a simple blood test can be used to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease, it may be possible to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease. This field brings new breakthroughs.

This is one of the main directions of the “Diagnostic Accelerator”. To date, the accelerator has invested in more than 40 global projects, using a new digital approach to early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. For example, a test can predict which individuals are more likely to experience cognitive decline using microRNA biomarkers in the blood; a retinal test can turn the eye into a “window to the brain” by imaging the retina to analyze neurodegeneration in the brain; and several smartphone- and tablet-based tools have recently received breakthrough medical device designation from the US FDA.

Image source: 123RF

With the injection of new funding, the accelerator hopes to advance the development of these diagnostics to benefit patients sooner.

In addition to these tools, related research has additional implications. Alzheimer’s disease is a very complex disease, and the mechanism behind it may be related to a series of phenomena accompanying aging, such as brain inflammation, metabolic disorders, and blood flow disorders. A few days ago, data from WuXi AppTec’s content department also showed that the current therapeutic areas for Alzheimer’s disease are very diverse, targeting different potential pathogenic mechanisms. The research on biomarkers can further understand the reasons behind Alzheimer’s disease and bring new directions for global innovation. As Prof. Howard Fillit, founding executive director and chief scientific officer of ADDF, said at the 2021 WuXi AppTec Global Forum, “A real breakthrough coming is in biomarkers that will actually allow us to translate the biology of aging into new treatments. .

Professor Fillit also pointed out that the development of Alzheimer’s disease is at least 30-35 years behind cancer. Huge advances in biomarkers could make precision treatment of Alzheimer’s disease a reality. We also expect that this project, jointly launched by several former richest men in the world, will usher in a breakthrough as soon as possible and benefit Alzheimer’s patients all over the world.

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