Ellen and Douglas Rosenberg Foundation Awards $3.5 Million for Alzheimer's Drug Development

The Buck Institute for Research on Aging has announced a $3.5 million grant from the Ellen and Douglas Rosenberg Foundation for new research on Alzheimer's disease being conducted by Dr. Dale Bredesen.

Douglas Rosenberg, whose father, stepfather, and stepmother all died from the neurodegenerative disease, considers the initiative to be a form of "venture philanthropy" that could yield profits for his foundation and other investors. He has established Sponsored Research Holdings as a vehicle to fund development of the new treatment, and he hopes to raise at least $10 million to fund drug development based on small molecule screening.

According to Bredesen, an academic neurologist turned researcher, Alzheimer's is not a disease of toxicity stemming from damage caused by amyloid plaques that collect in the brain — the dominant theory currently. Rather, he believes that plaques are merely an effect of the disease, and that the real cause involves an imbalance in signaling between neurons that impact brain plasticity. Bredesen said he believes the insight explains why experimental drugs aimed at eliminating the plaques have failed repeatedly in clinical trials. The initial funding from the Rosenberg Foundation will allow Bredesen to hire Dr. John Varghese, an experienced pharmaceutical chemist, to help develop treatment options and move toward clinical trials.

"We are truly grateful for Douglas's support in this effort, and impressed by his knowledge of Alzheimer's disease therapeutic development," said Bredesen. "The funding gap between basic discovery and drug development is commonly called 'the valley of death,' because that's where most discoveries end up. This valley, along with a lack of understanding of the basic processes at work in the disease, represent the main reasons that no one has yet developed a significant treatment for the disease. Douglas is taking us through this valley, allowing a completely new approach to enter clinical trials, which, if his goal for support is reached, should begin in the next two to three years."