• Seven major research projects to receive more than £14 million to develop new tests, treatments and devices for neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s, motor neuron disease and Parkinson’s disease.
  • The projects receiving the funding include a unique gene therapy for motor neuron disease and a form of dementia, an antibody treatment for Alzheimer’s and testing an anxiety medication to help treat small vessel disease (SVD) to prevent strokes.
  • The grant funding forms part of LifeArc and UK Dementia Research Institute’s strategic £30 million partnership to combine expertise in research and translational science to bridge the gap between laboratory discoveries and clinical applications to accelerate the development of new treatments and therapies.

14 November 2023, London

The first projects to be funded through LifeArc’s £30 million strategic partnership with the UK Dementia Research Institute (UKDRI) have been announced today.

A total of £14.5 million in grant funding has been allocated to support seven major projects seeking to develop new tests, treatments and medical devices to help the more than 1 million people in the UK living with neurodegenerative conditions including Alzheimer’s disease, motor neuron disease, fronto-temporal dementia (FTD) and Parkinson’s disease.

LifeArc’s strategic partnership with UK Dementia Research Institute (UK DRI) was established in 2022 to leverage the strengths of both organisations and advance research in the field of dementia. By combining the research capabilities of UK DRI with LifeArc’s translational expertise the two organisations will aim to bridge the gap between laboratory discoveries and clinical applications to accelerate the development of new treatments and therapies.

The projects receiving the funding are:

  • Developing a small molecular drug target to treat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS and a form of MND) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD), led by Prof Adrian Isaacs (UK DRI at UCL)

  • A low cost highly scalable diagnostic approach for Alzheimer’s, led by Prof Sir David Klenerman (UK DRI at Cambridge)

  • Identifying new combinations of existing drugs to treat motor neuron disease (MND), led by Prof Siddharthan Chandran (UK DRI Director)

  • A unique gene therapy approach for ALS and FTD, led by Dr Marc-David Ruepp (UK DRI at King’s)

  • Repurposing an anti-anxiety drug to treat small vessel disease, led by Prof Paul Matthews (UK DRI at Imperial).

  • Developing an antibody therapy targeting complement, part of the innate immune system for Alzheimer’s, led by Prof Paul Morgan and Dr Wioleta Zelek (UK DRI at Cardiff).

  • Digitally enhanced care for people affected by dementia, led by Prof David Sharp (UK DRI Care Research & Technology).

A joint committee between UK DRI and LifeArc agreed the projects and Dr Kay Penicud, UK DRI Director of Innovation & Business, said “It is fantastic to see such a breadth of high-quality translational research from across many of our Centres in these projects. These pioneering projects will bring us ever closer to our mission of new treatments for people affected by dementia. We’re thrilled to be partnering with LifeArc, and excited to see progress in these immensely promising research areas in the coming years.”

Dr Karen Skinner, Chief Project & Portfolio Officer at LifeArc said “Our partnership with UK DRI allows us to identify and back the most promising translational research with the potential to transform the lives of those with neurodegenerative conditions. By working together, we reduce risk by further validating opportunities and enhancing appeal to potential future partners, such as pharmaceutical companies, who can subsequently advance these innovations through the clinic and onto the market for those who desperately need them. The initial projects we are funding reaffirm the wealth of untapped research talent that exists within the UK.”

Research into neurodegenerative conditions is one of five healthcare themes identified by LifeArc as areas where this is significant unmet patient need. Overall LifeArc is investing up to £100m to tackle neurodegenerative conditions. Find out more about LifeArc and its strategic partnership with UK DRI here.

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For further press information please contact:

Andrew Stewart
Director of Communications at LifeArc

Notes for editors

About LifeArc  
LifeArc is a self-funded, not-for-profit medical research charity. We take science ideas out of the lab and help turn them into medical breakthroughs that can be life-changing for patients. We have been doing this for more than 25 years and our work has resulted in five licensed medicines, including cancer drug pembrolizumab (Keytruda®), lecanemab for Alzheimer’s (Leqembi), and a diagnostic for antibiotic resistance.

Our teams are experts in drug and diagnostics discovery, technology transfer, and intellectual property. Our work is in translational science – bridging the gap between academic research and clinical development, providing funding, research and expert knowledge, all with a clear and unwavering commitment to having a positive impact on patient lives.  LifeArc is committed to spending £1.3 billion by 2030 in areas of high unmet medical need.

LifeArc is a company limited by guarantee (registered in England and Wales under no. 2698321) and a charity (registered in England and Wales under no. 1015243 and in Scotland under no. SC037861).

Find out more about our work on or follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter.

About the UK Dementia Research Institute

The national UK Dementia Research Institute (UK DRI) is the single biggest investment in dementia research in the UK. Established in 2017 by its founding funders, the Medical Research Council, Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK, the multi-million-pound Institute is hosted across six leading UK universities: University of Cambridge, Cardiff University, University of Edinburgh, Imperial College London and King’s College London, with its central hub at UCL. The UK DRI works on ways to prevent, treat and care for people with all types of dementia, and ways to keep the brain healthy.