Bill Gates, Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation co-founder Leonard Lauder, and other investors together have pledged $30 million to fund research into biomarkers of early Alzheimer’s disease. Called Diagnostics Accelerator, the new venture aims to solve what Gates and colleagues see as a Catch-22 in commercial development of AD biomarkers: People will not pay for a diagnostic test for AD so long as there is no available treatment yet, they argue. “The commercial market for Alzheimer’s diagnostics simply isn’t there,” wrote Gates, explaining the initiative on his blog. “There’s promising research being done, but very few companies are looking at how to turn that research into a usable product.”
Researchers at academic medical centers, universities, nonprofits, or biotech companies can apply for grants. Proposals for new peripheral biomarkers in blood, saliva, urine, or eye, or proposals that validate existing markers, will be considered. Markers of any disease-related mechanism could qualify, including those for neurodegeneration, protein misfolding, or oxidative stress. Markers might be used to screen for dementia, help select patients for clinical trials, monitor drug responses, or predict disease onset. The initiative aims to bring down the cost and invasiveness of currently available PET or CSF biomarkers while detecting disease before symptoms begin.
Gates announced his commitment to Alzheimer’s research late last year, contributing $50 million to the U.K.-based Dementia Discovery Fund (Nov 2017 news). His own family history with Alzheimer’s, combined with the emotional and economic burden of the disease on society at large, compelled him to invest.
Researchers can submit a letter of intent by September 14, 2018. Full proposals are due by November 16. Details and application instructions are on the Accelerator webpage.—Gwyneth Dickey Zakaib