Alzheimer's Disease Fact Sheet

CIRM funds many projects seeking to better understand Alzheimer's disease and to translate those discoveries into new therapies.


Alzheimer's disease is a degenerative brain disease that causes dementia, which impairs people's ability to think, reason and remember things. More than five million people are living with Alzheimer’s disease in the U.S. today. Those people generally live much shorter lives and their medical expenses, combined with lost income for both them and their caregivers, is approximately $236 billion a year as of 2016. Alzheimer’s disease is currently the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. There are no drugs to treat the disease, although some do relieve symptoms.

The exact causes of Alzheimer's disease are unknown, however scientists believe that genetic risk factors make up 70% of Alzheimer's case. One problem that has slowed new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease is the fact that no animal model truly mimics the disease. Drugs that have effectively treated animals with a form of Alzheimer’s haven’t worked in humans. What that means is that we need a better way of finding new drugs. CIRM funds several awards to researchers who are creating stem cell models of the disease in a lab dish using cells from Alzheimer’s patients. They can then test drugs on nerve cells derived from the stem cells of Alzheimer’s patients to look for ones that eliminate symptoms of the disease. These models are the only way of testing drugs in actual human cells.

The agency also funds teams that are in the early stages of developing potential therapies using stem cells. Some groups are trying to mature embryonic stem cells into a cell type that can be transplanted into the brain to replace cells that are destroyed in the disease. Others are simply using stem cells as a way of delivering factors that appear to protect brain cells. One team is trying to use stem cells to clear out the protein that builds up and clogs neurons in Alzheimer’s patients.

CIRM Grants Targeting Alzheimer's Disease

Researcher name Institution Grant Title Grant Type Award Amount
Alexandra Capela StemCells, Inc. Neuroprotection to treat Alzheimer's: a new paradigm using human central nervous system cells Disease Team Therapy Planning I $90,101
Roberta Brinton University of Southern California A CIRM Disease Team to Develop Allopregnanolone for Prevention and Treatment of Alzheimer's Disease Disease Team Therapy Planning I $107,961
Lawrence Goldstein University of California, San Diego Identifying Drugs for Alzheimer's Disease with Human Neurons Made From Human IPS cells Early Translational III $1,774,420
David Schubert Salk Institute for Biological Studies Stem cell based small molecule therapy for Alzheimer's disease Early Translational III $1,673,757
Alexandra Capela StemCells, Inc. Restoration of memory in Alzheimer’s disease: a new paradigm using neural stem cell therapy Disease Team Therapy Development - Research $8,901,641
James Brewer University of California, San Diego Collection of skin biopsies to prepare fibroblasts from patients with Alzheimer's disease and cognitively healthy elderly controls Tissue Collection for Disease Modeling $643,693
Lawrence Goldstein University of California, San Diego Elucidating pathways from hereditary Alzheimer mutations to pathological tau phenotypes Basic Biology V $1,050,300
Douglas Ethell The Regents of the University of California on behalf of its Riverside Campus ES-Derived Cells for the Treatment of Alzheimer's Disease New Faculty I $621,639
Tony Wyss-Coray Palo Alto Veterans Institute for Research Systemic Protein Factors as Modulators of the Aging Neurogenic Niche Basic Biology II $1,159,806
Mathew Blurton-Jones University of California, Irvine Optimizing the differentiation and expansion of microglial progenitors from human pluripotent stem cells for the study and treatment of neurological disease. Tools and Technologies III $1,147,596
Anirvan Ghosh University of California, San Diego Generation of forebrain neurons from human embryonic stem cells SEED Grant $587,591
David Schubert Salk Institute for Biological Studies Human Stem-Cell Based Development of a Potent Alzheimer’s Drug Candidate Preclinical Development Awards $1,664,885
Frank LaFerla University of California, Irvine Development of human ES cell lines as a model system for Alzheimer disease drug discovery SEED Grant $473,963
Yadong Huang Gladstone Institutes, J. David Human iPSC-derived GABAergic Progenitors for Alzheimer’s Disease Treatment Therapeutic Translational Research Projects $1,900,000
Yadong Huang Gladstone Institutes, J. David Defining the Isoform-Specific Effects of Apolipoprotein E on the Development of iPS Cells into Functional Neurons in Vitro and in Vivo New Faculty II $2,757,303
Janet Baulch University of California, Irvine An exosome-based translational strategy to mitigate Alzheimer’s disease neuropathology Inception - Discovery Stage Research Projects $157,650
Lawrence Goldstein University of California, San Diego Using Human Embryonic Stem Cells to Understand and to Develop New Therapies for Alzheimer's Disease Comprehensive Grant $1,859,414
Stuart Lipton Scripps Research Institute Drug Development of Inhibitors of Inflammation Using Human iPSC-Derived Microglia (hiMG) Quest - Discovery Stage Research Projects $1,658,123
Frank LaFerla University of California, Irvine Neural Stem Cells as a Developmental Candidate to Treat Alzheimer Disease Early Translational I $3,599,997
Douglas Ethell Western University of Health Sciences ES-Derived Cells for the Treatment of Alzheimer's Disease New Faculty I $1,401,642
Lawrence Goldstein University of California, San Diego Developing a method for rapid identification of high-quality disease specific hIPSC lines Tools and Technologies II $1,686,069

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