Brain inflammation will be targeted in the first drug discovery project to be funded by the Dementia Consortium.
Academics at the University of Southampton will work alongside drug discovery experts at the medical research charity MRC Technology to target the immune system in an attempt to find a new treatment for Alzheimer's Disease.
The researchers will be backed by funding from the Dementia Consortium – a £3 million drug discovery collaboration between Alzheimer's Research UK, MRC Technology and the pharmaceutical companies Eisai and Lilly.
Building on their previous research, Dr Diego Gomez-Nicola and colleagues at the University of Southampton will investigate their findings that an immune system protein called CSF1R could be the key to an effective new drug for the disease.
It is now thought that Alzheimer's disturbs the brain's inflammatory response, causing the damage associated with the disease.
The Southampton-based researchers have already shown that blocking CSF1R can dampen the inflammatory response to nerve cell death and improve symptoms in other neurodegenerative diseases.
However, the compounds currently available to block CSF1R have unwanted effects and there are difficulties in ensuring they reach the brain.
The investment from the Dementia Consortium will enable the researchers to explore other, more targeted approaches to block CSF1R – important groundwork before any new treatment can go into testing on humans.
Dr Gomez-Nicola, career track lecturer and MRC NIRG fellow at the University of Southampton, said: "We know that targeting CSF1R is being explored as a potential treatment for cancer and inflammatory conditions, and we hope that by fine-tuning compounds to act specifically in the brain, this approach could be tested for benefits in Alzheimer's too."
Dr Eric Karran, director of research at Alzheimer's Research UK, added that investment in new drug targets is essential to turn promising research findings into tangible benefits for the 500,000 people in the UK with Alzheimer's.