Duke Researchers Receive Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation’s Diagnostics Accelerator Program Funding

Friday, August 23, 2019
Sharon Fekrat, MD and Dilraj Grewal, MD

Duke Eye Center's retina specialists Sharon Fekrat, MD and Dilraj S. Grewal, MD along with Duke neurologist James R. Burke MD, PhD and Brenda Plassman PhD and Duke’s Vice President for Research, Lawrence Carin, PhD collaborating with Tom MacGillivray, PhD and his team of the University of Edinburgh are one of the first group of researchers whose proposal was selected for funding through the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation's (ADDF) Diagnostics Accelerator.  They will be evaluating multimodal retinal imaging in the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease and will be incorporating deep learning. Nearly 300 letters of intent proposing new diagnostic strategies from 30 countries on six continents were reviewed by the ADDF working closely with external scientific reviewers and Joint Steering Committee and they were one of four awards selected in the first round. These first four awards from this first RFP total up to approximately $3.5 million. 
With funding from a coalition of philanthropists, including ADDF Co-Founder Leonard Lauder, Bill Gates, and Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos, among others, the ADDF will award up to $50 million over the next three years. This new research program, ADDF’s Diagnostics Accelerator program, aims to fast-track the development of diagnostic tools and biomarkers for Alzheimer's disease and related dementias.
"We are thrilled to announce the first round of awards of the Diagnostics Accelerator initiative. After an extensive review, we selected research that showed promise in accelerating the development of innovative diagnostic tools, such as blood tests and eye scans," said Howard Fillit, MD, Founding Executive Director and Chief Science Officer of the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation. "Unlike heart disease and cancer, we lack simple and cost-effective diagnostic tools and biomarkers that are critical to finding ways to prevent and treat Alzheimer's disease. Once we have them, we will better understand how Alzheimer's progresses and make clinical drug trials more efficient and rigorous."