Publish date: 04 April 2024

A world-class research team at UCLH and UCL has been awarded £3.76m to carry out a countrywide trial to identify accurate and quick blood tests that can diagnose dementia.

The ADAPT team, led by Professor Jonathan Schott and Dr Ashvini Keshavan of the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery at UCLH and UCL Institute of Neurology, will capitalise on recent breakthroughs in potential dementia blood tests, and generate the evidence needed for them to be used in the NHS within the next 5 years.

Pictured: Professor Jonathan Schott and Dr Ashvini Keshavan

The team is part of the Blood Biomarker Challenge - a multi-million pound award given by Alzheimer’s Society, Alzheimer’s Research UK and the National Institute for Health and Care Research and Gates Ventures including £5m raised by players of People’s Postcode Lottery. The project aims to revolutionise dementia diagnosis.

The award will also fund a team from Dementias Platform UK based at the University of Oxford working towards the same aims and taking a complementary approach.

In recent years, a number of different blood tests that can diagnose Alzheimer’s disease and other causes of dementia have shown very promising results in research settings. But they have yet to be tested widely in clinical settings in the UK.

The ADAPT team will focus on the most promising blood biomarker for Alzheimer’s disease, called p-tau217. A blood biomarker is an indicator of disease found in the blood. P-tau217 reflects levels of two hallmark proteins found inside the brain in Alzheimer’s disease – amyloid and tau. The researchers will carry out a clinical trial to see whether measuring p-tau217 in the blood increases the rate of diagnosis for Alzheimer’s disease both in people with early dementia, but also in those with mild, progressive problems with memory.

Professor Schott, who is also Alzheimer’s Research UK Chief Medical Officer said: “An early, accurate diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is already important, allowing people to access to appropriate care and medications. If, as we hope, new treatments that can slow down Alzheimer’s disease become available soon, then this will be vital. This would pave the way for fair and equitable access to new and potentially life-changing treatments to all who might benefit.”

The ADAPT team is supported by the NIHR UCLH Biomedical Research Centre.