Clinical Trials for New Alzheimer’s Disease Treatment Led by Trinity College Dublin Researchers to be Awarded European Commission €6 million Funding

An international research  consortium led by Trinity College Dublin  that aims  to develop a new Alzheimer’s disease treatment has just been selected for grant funding of €6 million by the European Commission  Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). The consortium NILVAD*, comprising 18 European universities, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies, will conduct European clinical trials of NILVADIPINE in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

Trinity College Dublin researchers at the School of Medicine and St James’s Hospital, Dublin, are coordinating this major clinical trial that will determine whether NILVADIPINE can improve memory and also slow the rate of progression of Alzheimer’s disease. NILVADIPINE is an approved medication used for the treatment of high blood pressure and has been already shown to decrease the risk of developing dementia. There have been no new drug treatments developed for Alzheimer’s disease since 2003.

Commenting on the significance of the clinical trials and research, Professor Brian Lawlor, Conolly Norman Professor of Old Age Psychiatry at Trinity College Dublin and Consultant Psychiatrist at St James’s Hospital who is leading the research said:  “Considering the devastating health and social cure impact that Alzheimer’s disease has on Europeans, there is relatively little research funding made available to tackle this major killer.  This research consortium, NILVAD represents a change in this trend in Europe and a step in the right direction.  It not only offers hope for a new treatment but also strengthens research networks and collaborations in Europe and means that research developments in Alzheimer’s disease can be accelerated for the benefit of all Europeans.”

Image of the brain

Alzheimer’s disease is an ever-increasing public health concern among the ageing population and is the most common form of dementia affecting more than 15 million individuals worldwide and around 5 million Europeans. The direct and indirect costs of AD and other dementias amount to more than €440,000 million each year (www.alz.org, 2010).  It is estimated that by 2050, 1 in 85 of the population worldwide will have AD. There are few effective symptomatic treatments and as of the moment, no treatment that can delay or prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Treating high blood pressure with medications like NILVADIPINE has been shown to decrease the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In partnership with The Roskamp Institute in Florida, which developed the basic science evidence for the potential effectiveness of NILVADIPINE, Mercer’s Institute for Successful Ageing at St James’s Hospital, Dublin, conducted an earlier safety study also led by Professor Lawlor, on  Alzheimer’s disease patients that formed the basis for this new clinical trial. Now, in collaboration with key partners* and Alzheimer’s disease experts, NILVAD will conduct these multi-centre European trials.  The trials will determine if NILVADIPINE can improve memory and functioning but also slow the rate of progression of Alzheimer’s disease. In preclinical studies NILVADIPINE lowers brain levels of amyloid which is thought to contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s Disease.  The study will be conducted over a period of 18 months involving 500 people. 

Because NILVADIPINE is already available and licensed, this type of study can be carried out more quickly, to the potential benefit of future generations of people with Alzheimer’s disease, their caregivers and society.