Dementia discovery cash crisis

The Alzheimers drug research team at Lancaster University
The Alzheimers drug research team at Lancaster University

The development of a groundbreaking Alzheimer’s drug by Lancaster University researchers has hit a brick wall due to a funding gap.

The team of researchers, led by Prof David Allsop, has been working on the drug for the past six years, and tests have proven that it can preserve memory and stop people developing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. But the team has a shortfall of £85,000 which is essential to prepare the drug for human clinical trials.

Researcher Penny Foulds, a former Morecambe High School teacher, said she joined the team after her grandparents developed Alzheimer’s after 63 years of marriage.

She said: “We developed this drug about six years ago now, and we’ve had funding from Research Councils, including Alzheimer’s Research UK. We’ve come to the end of that side of the funding and we now need to go and explore other opportunities.

“There’s lots of things that we need to do before a pharmaceutical company would adapt it for human clinical trials. We need to find out what dose we would give to a person, and whether it would be delivered as an injection or a pill for example.

“If we’d have come up with this a few years ago, we would have had a much easier time getting it funded, but there’s been a bad experience with Alzheimer’s drugs in the pharmaceuticals industry and a lot of the companies are pulling out of it.

“There’s no cure for Alzheimer’s, but you can get things that will alleviate the symptoms. However they don’t go any way into slowing the disease down and stopping it.

“We wouldn’t say this was a cure, but it would be given in the first instance of someone getting memory problems. It actually preserves memory and nobody has been able to prove this before now.

“It’s certainly groundbreaking and it could be huge, but we need the funding to take it forward to the next level.” The drug blocks the formation of senile plaques found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. It also blocks their toxic effects on brain cells.

Penny said: “Senile plaques clog the brain up, which causes brain cells to die.

“As a result the brain shrinks by as much as a third and the immune system is so compromised that death can result from symptoms the immune system would usually deal with, like pneumonia.

“A drug with this sort of capability could be given to people so that they don’t even get the symptoms in the first place.”

The team has now set up a campaign called Defying Dementia, which you can follow on Facebook, and a JustGiving Page where you can donate at www.justgiving/defyingdementia.