Drug Discovery

An exciting new approach to developing treatments for dementia by 'repurposing' existing drugs.

What is Drug Discovery?

The Drug Discovery programme is Alzheimer's Society's innovative approach to dementia treatment development. The result of which means new, better treatments could be available in half the time of a standard drug.

Why is Drug Discovery important?

It takes about 20 years and millions of pounds to develop a new drug from scratch.

Drug Discovery focuses on 'drug repurposing', which takes drugs that are already being used to treat other conditions and tests their potential as a treatment for dementia.

Working with national dementia experts, we carried out a review of existing research that was published in Nature Reviews Drug Discovery in October 2012. It identified five existing classes of drugs already in use for other conditions that show most potential for the treatment of dementia.

The four most promising of these drug types are currently being tested, or soon to begin testing, in people with dementia in Phase IIb or Phase III clinical trials.

What research are we funding as part of Drug Discovery?

Clinical trials

Alzheimer's Society is currently funding a number of clinical trials to test existing drugs in people with dementia:

Small vessel disease

We are also funding a clinical trial investigating whether certain pre-existing drugs can be used to treat small vessel disease, which is a leading cause of vascular dementia.

This trial is also aiming to find out whether a suitable treatment for small vessel disease may be able to prevent some forms of vascular dementia.

Type 2 diabetes

We are partly funding a clinical trial into a type 2 diabetes drug called liraglutide. Our earlier research has shown positive results with liraglutide in the lab so now we're testing this drug in people with early-stage Alzheimer's disease.

Take part in our trial

Our trial into type 2 diabetes drug liraglutide is currently recruiting patients with early-stage Alzheimer's disease across the country. Find out whether you're eligible to participate.

Learn more

Studies investigating drugs for future clinical trials

  • University of Oxford: Using an innovative drug screening method to identify potential new treatments for Alzheimer's disease.
  • St George's, University of London: A drug called tadalafil is being tested in a small number of people to test its potential as a prevention for vascular dementia caused by small vessel disease. This project is jointly funded with the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation.
  • Lancaster University: More potent diabetes treatments, similar to liraglutide, are being tested in Alzheimer's disease models to see if any of them could also be potential future treatments. This project is jointly funded with the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation.
  • University of Cambridge: Three compounds that target unfolded proteins are being tested as potential dementia treatments in the lab. This project is jointly funded with the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation.
How do I donate to Drug Discovery?

You can use our secure online form to donate to the Drug Discovery programme.

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Further reading