ALZHEIMER’S DRUG DISCOVERY FOUNDATION’S DIAGNOSTICS ACCELERATOR ANNOUNCES FIRST DIGITAL BIOMARKER RESEARCH AWARD AND DATA SHARING PLATFORM
- Digital biomarker awards support technology solutions for early detection of Alzheimer’s and related dementias
- Data platform enables researchers using digital tools to share their findings for benchmarking, analysis and use across research projects
- ADDF’s Diagnostics Accelerator has $50 million in commitments from leading philanthropists Leonard A. Lauder, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Bezos, the Dolby family, the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, and others to speed up development of biomarkers for early detection of Alzheimer's and related dementias
April 29, 2020
The Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF) today announced five new research investments through its Diagnostics Accelerator (DxA) initiative, including the first for digital biomarker research to Cogstate Ltd., to develop a technology-based approach for early detection of memory impairment and decline, which can be a sign of Alzheimer’s disease. The ADDF also announced a new partnership with Sage Bionetworks to establish an online repository for open data sharing among digital biomarker researchers who receive Diagnostics Accelerator awards.
The up to $1.3 million award to Cogstate Ltd. supports development of a mobile app for early detection of memory problems. Researcher Chris Edgar, Ph.D. is leading a team that is adapting a well-established memory test, called the International Shopping List test, for use on smartphones and tablets. This will make the test accessible to people in their homes and will allow for regular repeat testing to track changes in memory. Cogstate is validating the app to ensure it is effective for use among diverse populations.
Sage is developing a custom Digital Biomarker Development Platform to store data from funded research and facilitate benchmarking, analysis and sharing among the Diagnostics Accelerator community. Sage’s team of data curators, data engineers and analysts will provide awardees with training and support and will maintain the data, making it available to support independent research programs. Data sharing via this platform will also facilitate objective evaluation of ongoing digital biomarker research projects and development of algorithms that support them. Sage will also aim to develop metadata standards and API (Application Program Interface) documentation to facilitate interoperability and integration with other datasets and data platforms in the future.
“Technology advances are giving us new opportunities to develop digital biomarkers — wearable and other personal devices collect data directly from patients, and their caregivers and families, and cloud computing can collect, collate and analyze this data like never before,” said Howard Fillit, M.D., Founding Executive Director and Chief Science Officer of the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation. “That’s why we are so enthusiastic about today’s announcements and are looking forward to announcing more digital biomarker awards in the near future.”
Supported by leading philanthropists, the Diagnostics Accelerator has mobilized commitments totaling $50 million from ADDF co-founder Leonard A. Lauder, Bill Gates, and additional partners including Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Bezos, the Dolby family, the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, The Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration, and others to address the lack of biomarkers, which are critical toward the ultimate goal: development of effective drugs to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s.
Additional investments announced today expand DxA’s peripheral biomarker research
The additional investments announced today support development of non-invasive blood tests that can diagnose Alzheimer’s earlier than ever before. With the latest investments, the Diagnostics Accelerator has awarded nearly $14 million to 15 investigators around the world who are developing and testing biomarkers for easier, more accurate and earlier diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and related dementias.
These research awards, made to researchers working in academia, private enterprise and a government-private partnership working on three continents are:
- Sidney Strickland, Ph.D., Erin H. Norris, Ph.D., and colleagues at The Rockefeller University in New York City (up to $320,000 award) are developing a blood test that detects changes in a protein called high molecular weight kininogen — a biomarker that identifies patients with vascular and inflammatory abnormalities that can contribute to the pathology of Alzheimer’s. This biomarker test would also help identify patients for clinical trials.
- Bruno Steinkraus, Ph.D. and colleagues at Hummingbird Diagnostics in Germany (up to $708,382 award) are developing a blood test that detects bloodborne microRNAs, molecules that help maintain the integrity of neurons in the brain and are surrogate markers of the immune system. Levels of microRNAs in the blood appear to be a reliable biomarker showing progression of Alzheimer’s.
- Yuval Dor, Ph.D. and colleagues at Hebrew University in Israel (up to $500,000 award) are refining a test they developed to detect levels of a brain-specific DNA in the blood. This DNA is only released into the blood when brain cells die. Dor and team have documented much higher levels of this DNA in the blood of people with Alzheimer’s, even if they are symptom free, compared to people without Alzheimer’s. The next step is to assess the blood test in a larger pool of early Alzheimer’s patients to validate it for widespread use.
- The Foundation for the National Institutes of Health’s Biomarkers Consortium project Plasma Abeta as a Predictor of Amyloid Positivity in Alzheimer’s Disease (up to $402,000 award) is assessing the performance of six top performing blood tests that measure amyloid levels in plasma. Amyloid is the protein that clumps into plaques in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. The current gold standard for detecting these plaques is either expensive PET imaging or invasive spinal fluid taps. A minimally invasive, high-quality blood test would be easier for patients and could speed up the process of enrolling patients in appropriate Alzheimer’s disease clinical trials.