The mission of the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF) is to rapidly accelerate the discovery of drugs to prevent, treat and cure Alzheimer's disease. Founded in 1998 by co-chairmen Leonard A. and Ronald S. Lauder, the ADDF is a leader in funding innovative Alzheimer’s drug research worldwide. The ADDF focuses on translating the knowledge gained about the causes of Alzheimer's disease into drugs to conquer it, and supports an underfunded area-- preclinical drug discovery and early-stage clinical trials of potential drug targets.
The Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF) is the only charity solely focused on finding drugs to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Since 1998, it has invested nearly $100 million to advance the most promising ideas to cure these diseases.
Alzheimer’s disease is uniformly fatal. No approved drugs are available to prevent it or even slow it down—current drugs only address symptoms of the disease, not its causes. The lack of treatment options has serious consequences. Recently, Alzheimer’s and related dementias became the most common cause of death in the UK. In the United States, Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause. More than 5 million Americans are living with the disease, and that number is expected to triple by 2050.
Howard Fillit, M.D., Founding Executive Director and Chief Science Officer of the ADDF says: “Drug discovery is our best hope to stop this looming health crisis. With effective drugs, Alzheimer’s could become a manageable illness, like heart disease or hypertension. The ADDF is committed to making that vision a reality.”
The ADDF supports drug discovery and early-stage clinical trials, which are critically underfunded areas of research often referred to as the “valley of death.” In a 2015 article in the Washington Post, Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., director of the National Institutes of Health, said: “It’s where great ideas, unfortunately, go to die.” Drug discovery involves translating knowledge about the underlying causes of a disease into drugs to treat it. In recent years, researchers have found many processes that contribute to Alzheimer’s disease. But creating drugs to tackle those causes is risky, as every new approach is untested. Corporate and government funders are risk-averse and most traditional philanthropies focus on “basic research” into the underlying causes.
The ADDF assumes the risk and bridges the funding gap, so pioneering researchers can pursue ideas for new drugs. And its approach is working. There are over 100 potential treatments for Alzheimer’s now in clinical trials, and more than 20 percent received funds from the ADDF. This includes a novel drug to improve the function of synapses in the brain, being developed by Jerri Rook, Ph.D., and a team at Vanderbilt University.
Once a potential drug reaches later stages of development, such as phase 2 or 3 clinical trials, it can often attract support from the pharmaceutical industry or federal funders. Unfortunately, in Alzheimer’s the available support is limited. Despite being the only top 10 cause of death without treatment options, Alzheimer’s receives far less in federal research funding than diseases that are treatable. But thanks to Research!America, that is beginning to change. The NIH allocated more for Alzheimer’s research this year than ever before, and more of those funds support clinical trials. The ADDF will continue to ensure that the most promising drugs have support to advance to clinical trials, and Research!America will continue to advocate for increased federal funding for such research. Effective drugs will make it into the hands of patients with Alzheimer’s.