Industry News: Treating Alzheimer’s by Targeting the Immune System

16 Mar 2017


The Dementia Consortium, a public-private partnership initiative bridging the gap between academic research and the pharmaceutical industry, is supporting a project led by Dr David Brough at the University of Manchester to develop novel therapeutics for Alzheimer’s disease targeting the immune system. This is the fifth project supported by the Dementia Consortium, and has been awarded £191,757 by the initiative.

The University of Manchester team will be working in collaboration with drug development experts at MRC Technology’s Centre for Therapeutics Discovery (CTD) to alter inflammatory processes as a means to attempt to reduce the spread of nerve cell damage in Alzheimer’s disease. The brain's immune system has long been implicated as a key factor in the development of Alzheimer’s disease, and it now appears that a malfunctioning immune system may attack the brain and nerve cells, contributing to the damage commonly seen in Alzheimer’s patients.

This project will develop compounds to target a particular component of inflammasomes called NLRP3, which is thought to be a main contributor to the nerve cell damage seen in Alzheimer’s disease. Targeting NLRP3 should reduce inflammatory processes triggered by the inflammasome, thereby reducing damage occurring to nerve cells in the brain. Dr Brough is working with experts at MRC Technology to modify and refine these early stage compounds.

Dr David Brough, Senior Lecturer, University of Manchester, said: “I have always been intrigued by the immune system – it is one of the most complicated systems in our bodies, and combined with our most complex organ, the brain, creates the ultimate enigma for scientists to crack. By shifting our focus to understanding how the immune system goes astray in Alzheimer’s my team has identified a potential way to bring this system back on track and halt the damage being triggered in the brain. The support of the Dementia Consortium is pivotal in allowing us to translate our findings so that they may provide real benefit to all those whose lives are touched by Alzheimer’s disease.”

Justin Bryans, Director, Drug Discovery at MRC Technology, said: “MRC Technology’s CTD has proven capability in drug discovery, and is responsible for accessing early stage molecular targets emerging from academic research, to address the most urgent medical needs. As part of the Dementia Consortium initiative we have the opportunity to increase our reach further, working on projects such as this with the aim of translating promising science into effective treatments for patients.”

Dr David Reynolds, Chief Scientific Officer at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “There are 850,000 people currently living with dementia in the UK, and with this number set to grow to over a million people by 2025, we urgently need new treatments for the condition. Dementia is perhaps our greatest medical challenge and it requires a concerted response in order to tackle it effectively. The Dementia Consortium brings together expertise and enthusiasm from partners across charity and industry to support talented scientists like David Brough.”

The Dementia Consortium is an initiative set up to rise to the challenge of dementia, forming a global partnership between Alzheimer’s Research UK, MRC Technology and the pharmaceutical companies Abbvie, Astex, Eisai, Lilly and MSD. By uniting expertise, the Consortium is bridging the gap between academic research and the pharmaceutical industry in the search for new treatments for dementia.