New Institute to fast-track development of novel dementia treatments*

16 February 2015

A new Drug Discovery Institute is launched today by Oxford University and Alzheimer’s Research UK to speed up the development of new treatments for Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

Alzheimer’s Research UK, the world’s largest dementia research charity, is launching three new Drug Discovery Institutes at the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge and UCL (University College London) through a new £30 million Drug Discovery Alliance. The Drug Discovery Institutes will see 90 new research scientists employed in state-of-the-art facilities to fast-track the development of new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

The Alzheimer's Research UK Oxford Drug Discovery Institute will receive a third of the £30 million grant. The Institute will build on major recent investments by the university and substantial recent grants received by the project leaders (totalling in excess of £40 million). It will be located in the University's newly-established built-for-purpose Target Discovery Institute.

According to Professor Simon Lovestone, one of the Oxford University project leaders, ‘Advances in science and technology are revolutionising our approach to healthcare, but dementia is playing catch up with other areas of disease research and needs a step change. With heart attack deaths halved and cancer survival rates in the UK doubled, it’s a sad fact that there are still few options for people with dementia. The Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Drug Discovery Alliance represents the best coordinated and strategic effort to make progress in dementia research and will build on  successes in tackling other diseases to give us the best chance of making a difference. We’re proud to be hosting a Drug Discovery Institute here at the University of Oxford.’

The research team at Oxford will develop multiple projects to design and develop new therapies. It plans to deliver at least three new therapies for further clinical development and trials within the next five years.

All of the new findings from the research will made freely available to the world’s research community. ‘This has never been done before, and we believe that it will transform dementia research’, said Professor Chas Bountra, the other project leader at Oxford University, ‘We will work with the best academic and industrial scientists to identify potential new drug targets for dementia. We will then generate high quality starting points for making new medicines, but then uniquely, make them freely available to the world’s biomedical community. By doing so we will catalyse new biology, new disease understanding and importantly accelerate those few molecules which are likely to slow down the progression of this dreadful disease. We are crowd sourcing the discovery of new medicines for Alzheimer’s disease. This is unprecedented.’

Oxford University already carries out Alzheimer’s disease research collaboratively with multiple pharmaceutical and other industry partners, as well as with universities across the UK, Europe and the rest of the world. Many active labs within Oxford University are also working on all aspects of neurodegeneration.

An existing pioneering collaboration between Oxford University, multiple pharmaceutical companies and more than one hundred scientists across the world has already successfully facilitated many clinical trials across several therapeutic areas. ‘We intend to do the same for dementia in a very targeted and urgent manner. Patients and their carers are waiting. We have to deliver,’ said Professor Bountra.

It has been 12 years since the last treatment for dementia was licensed in the UK and while current treatments help with symptoms, they are only modestly effective and not suitable for all dementias.  At the G8 Dementia Summit one year ago, health leaders from across the world pledged a research ambition for a disease-modifying therapy for dementia by 2025.

Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Drug Discovery Alliance will make a major contribution to delivering this ambition – the network of Drug Discovery Institutes dedicated to early stage drug discovery.

Each Institute will be led by a Chief Scientific Officer working in tandem with some of the UK’s leading academic researchers based at each of the three universities and Alzheimer’s Research UK’s own in-house research leaders. New ideas and breakthroughs 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.

Dr Eric Karran, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said ‘Academic research is a goldmine of knowledge about diseases such as Alzheimer’s, and by tapping into the innovation, creativity, ideas and flexibility of scientists in these universities, we can re-energise the search for new dementia treatments. Working in universities and hospitals alongside people affected by dementia and their families, academic researchers are best placed to take research breakthroughs and progress them into real world benefits for the people that so desperately need them. '

The Drug Discovery Alliance is one of the first of its kind for dementia research in the world. 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. 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.’ The Drug Discovery Alliance builds on the experiences of similar initiatives driven by cancer charities over the last two decades, which are now starting to deliver effective new treatments to patients.

Dr Karran said ‘We are committed to making this landmark initiative a success and are confident that the Drug Discovery Alliance will become a scientific tour-de-force. We have ambitions to grow the Alliance over time, hopefully attracting new Institutes from across the globe to become the biggest joined-up dementia drug discovery effort in the world.’

For more information contact: Prof. Simon Lovestone  [email protected], Prof Chas Bountra [email protected]

Alternatively contact the Oxford University News Office on +44 (0)1865 270046 or email [email protected]

To speak to a case study or spokesperson from Alzheimer’s Research UK, please contact Laura Phipps, Science Communications Manager at Alzheimer’s Research UK on 0300 111 5 666, mobile 07500803936 or email [email protected] 

Notes to Editors:

* The original title of this news release was 'Oxford Drug Discovery Institute to fast-track development of novel dementia treatments'. The text has also been amended to include the full official name of the new institute. 

  • Alzheimer’s Research UK is the UK’s leading charity specialising in finding preventions, treatments and a cure for dementia. Our Defeat Dementia campaign, a pledge to raise £100 million in five years to grow the research field and accelerate progress towards new treatments and preventions, was announced by the Prime Minister at the G8 legacy event on 19 June 2014. For more information visit To help us defeat dementia, donate today by visiting or calling 0300 111 5555. We are currently supporting dementia research projects worth over £22 million in leading Universities across the UK.
  • There are 830,000 people in the UK with dementia and 44mn worldwide. The annual cost of dementia to the UK economy is £23bn and US$604bn.
  • Academic research funding was behind 18% of drugs recently approved by the European Medicines Authority. Similar charity-driven drug discovery centres focused on cancer have brought three new drugs to market, with a further 18 in clinical testing.