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 NameInstitutionGrant TitleGrant TypeAward Amount
Stuart A LiptonScripps Research InstituteDrug Development of Inhibitors of Inflammation Using Human iPSC-Derived Microglia (hiMG)Quest – Discovery Stage Research Projects$1,658,123
Janet E BaulchUniversity of California, IrvineAn exosome-based translational strategy to mitigate Alzheimer’s disease neuropathologyInception – Discovery Stage Research Projects$157,650
Dr. Yadong HuangGladstone Institutes, J. DavidHuman iPSC-derived GABAergic Progenitors for Alzheimer’s Disease TreatmentTherapeutic Translational Research Projects$1,900,000
Dr. David R SchubertSalk Institute for Biological StudiesHuman Stem-Cell Based Development of a Potent Alzheimer’s Drug CandidatePreclinical Development Awards$1,664,885
Dr. Mathew Mark Blurton-JonesUniversity of California, IrvineOptimizing 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
Dr. Lawrence S. B. GoldsteinUniversity of California, San DiegoElucidating pathways from hereditary Alzheimer mutations to pathological tau phenotypesBasic Biology V$1,050,300
Dr. James BrewerUniversity of California, San DiegoCollection of skin biopsies to prepare fibroblasts from patients with Alzheimer’s disease and cognitively healthy elderly controlsTissue Collection for Disease Modeling$643,693
Dr. Alexandra CapelaStemCells, Inc.Restoration of memory in Alzheimer’s disease: a new paradigm using neural stem cell therapyDisease Team Therapy Development – Research$8,901,641
Dr. David R SchubertSalk Institute for Biological StudiesStem cell based small molecule therapy for Alzheimer’s diseaseEarly Translational III$1,673,757
Dr. Lawrence S. B. GoldsteinUniversity of California, San DiegoIdentifying Drugs for Alzheimer’s Disease with Human Neurons Made From Human IPS cellsEarly Translational III$1,774,420
Dr. Alexandra CapelaStemCells, Inc.Neuroprotection to treat Alzheimer’s: a new paradigm using human central nervous system cellsDisease Team Therapy Planning I$90,101
Roberta Diaz BrintonUniversity of Southern CaliforniaA CIRM Disease Team to Develop Allopregnanolone for Prevention and Treatment of Alzheimer’s DiseaseDisease Team Therapy Planning I$107,961
Dr. Lawrence S. B. GoldsteinUniversity of California, San DiegoDeveloping a method for rapid identification of high-quality disease specific hIPSC linesTools and Technologies II$1,686,069
Dr. Douglas EthellThe Regents of the University of California on behalf of its Riverside CampusES-Derived Cells for the Treatment of Alzheimer’s DiseaseNew Faculty I$621,639
Dr. Douglas W EthellWestern University of Health SciencesES-Derived Cells for the Treatment of Alzheimer’s DiseaseNew Faculty I$1,401,642
Dr. Frank LaFerlaUniversity of California, IrvineNeural Stem Cells as a Developmental Candidate to Treat Alzheimer DiseaseEarly Translational I$3,599,997
Dr. Yadong HuangGladstone Institutes, J. DavidDefining the Isoform-Specific Effects of Apolipoprotein E on the Development of iPS Cells into Functional Neurons in Vitro and in VivoNew Faculty II$2,757,303
Dr. Lawrence S. B. GoldsteinUniversity of California, San DiegoUsing Human Embryonic Stem Cells to Understand and to Develop New Therapies for Alzheimer’s DiseaseComprehensive Grant$1,859,414
Dr. Frank LaFerlaUniversity of California, IrvineDevelopment of human ES cell lines as a model system for Alzheimer disease drug discoverySEED Grant$473,963
Dr. Anirvan Ghosh Dr.University of California, San DiegoGeneration of forebrain neurons from human embryonic stem cellsSEED Grant$587,591
Dr. Tony Wyss-CorayPalo Alto Veterans Institute for ResearchSystemic Protein Factors as Modulators of the Aging Neurogenic NicheBasic Biology II$1,159,806

CIRM Alzheimer’s Disease Videos

Alzheimer’s Nightmare Spurs Comedy Fundraiser to Help Caregivers

Grace Asuelime, City of Hope – CIRM Stem Cell #SciencePitch

Aynun Begum, Western Univ. of Health Sciences – CIRM Stem Cell #SciencePitch

Alzheimer’s Stem Cell Research: Ask the Expert – Larry Goldstein, UCSD

Alzheimer’s Ask the Expert video, Part 2: Of stem cells, iphones and a cellular black box

Alzheimer’s: Advancing Stem Cell Therapies – 2011 CIRM Grantee Meeting

Leeza Gibbons – CIRM’s Investment in Neurodegenerative Diseases

Alzheimer’s Stem Cell Research Patient Advocate Spotlight

Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s – Using Stem Cells to Understand and Treat Disease

Neural Stem Cells Reverse Alzheimer’s-Like Symptoms

Spotlight on Alzheimer’s Disease: Welcoming Remarks

Spolight on Alzheimer’s Disease: Seminar by Dick Mora

Spotlight on Alzheimer’s Disease: Seminar by William Rodman Shankle, M.D.

Spotlight on Alzheimer’s Disease: Frank LaFerla, Ph.D.

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