Francis S. Collins, MD, PhDFrancis S. Collins, MD, PhD
As urgency builds to identify an effective therapy for the treatment of Alzheimer disease (AD), the National Institute on Aging (NIA) has thrown its support behind the launch of 2 new research centers focused on diversifying the AD drug development pipeline.

With funding expected to total more than $73 million over 5 years, the Alzheimer Centers for the Discovery of New Medicines will seek to provide needed research tools and technology that can help validate and advance new therapeutic targets for AD. These tools will be made available to the greater research community – including those in academia and industry – free of charge.

“Through these centers, NIH will expand the use of open-science and open-source principles to de-risk novel drug targets with the goal of facilitating the development of new treatments for Alzheimer’s,” said National Institutes of Health director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, in a statement.

The basis for an open-science environment was based on the success of the Accelerating Medicines Partnership-Alzheimer’s Disease (AMP-AD) program, which is a collaborative between government, industry, and nonprofits to help discover novel therapeutic targets and biomarkers for AD. Like the new Alzheimer Centers, AMP-AD makes all of its data freely available to the research community.

Grants for the 2 centers have been awarded to 2 multi-specialty and multi-institutional research teams who have broad expertise across data science, disease biology, assay development, pharmacology, clinical science, and more.

The first center, The Open Drug Discovery Center for Alzheimer’s Disease, will be led by Allan Levey, MD, PhD, of Emory University in Atlanta; Lara Mangravite, PhD, of Sage Bionetworks in Seattle; and Aled Edwards, PhD, of Structural Genomics Consortium, which has research sites in North Carolina, Toronto, Canada, and Oxford, United Kingdom. This team will leverage data from the AMP-AD program to develop new therapeutic hypotheses based on novel targets, as well as develop target-engaging tools such as antibodies and chemical probes.

The second center, The Indiana University School of Medicine Alzheimer’s Disease Drug Discovery Center, will be led by Alan Palkowitz, PhD, and Bruce Lamb, PhD, at Indiana University in Indianapolis, alongside researchers from Purdue University in Indiana. They too will utilize target discovery work completed by the AMP-AD program to help develop new molecules with disease-modifying potential. These targets will be explored in animal models based on human pathology, genetics, and translational biomarkers developed by the Model Organism Development & Evaluation for Late-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease Consortium, which is also supported by the NIA. Ultimately, the group will create a portfolio of new therapeutic hypotheses focused on immune pathways.

“Through these centers, scientists will advance drug discovery for new targets to the point of attracting external partners who can take them into clinical development,” said Lorenzo Refolo, PhD, program director for Alzheimer’s Translational Research at the NIA. “Ultimately, we need many candidate therapeutics that target multiple aspects of the disease in the drug development pipeline because there’s not likely to be a single cure for Alzheimer’s.”
REFERENCE
New NIH-funded translational research centers to speed, diversify Alzheimer’s drug discovery [news release]. National Institutes of Health. October 1, 2019. nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/new-nih-funded-translational-research-centers-speed-diversify-alzheimers-drug-discovery. Accessed October 8, 2019.