Focus on Alzheimer's Disease and Related Dementias

Focus on Alzheimer's Disease and Related Dementias

Sketch of brain being erased

NINDS Program Description

What is AD/ADRD?

Alzheimer's Disease and Alzheimer's Disease Related Dementias (AD/ADRD) refers to the most common forms of dementia. Dementia likely affects more than 5 million people in the U.S. and more than 47 million people worldwide. At this time, there are no known treatments to prevent or stop the progression of dementia. The toll on individuals, caregivers and society is enormous and will only increase as the population ages unless effective interventions are developed. NINDS collaborates with NIH’s National Institute on Aging (NIA), the lead NIH Institute for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) research, to establish research priorities and fund biomedical research in AD as well as several Alzheimer’s disease-related dementias (ADRDs).

While AD is the most common dementia diagnosis, ADRDs share many cognitive and pathological features with and can be difficult to distinguish from AD. In fact, more often than not, patients with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease present with different mixtures of brain pathologies, complicating both the diagnosis, as well as the treatment.

The ADRDs include:

Going forward, NINDS and NIA will continue to partner in AD/ADRD research planning and implementation, and we urge the research community to join in our efforts to accelerate scientific progress toward reducing the enormous burden and cost of dementia.

Adding to the suite of NINDS’s ongoing ADRD programs, several new potential funding announcements for release in FY20 and FY21 were approved by the NANDS Council, including:

  • Mechanisms of Selective Vulnerability in LBD and FTD – to increase basic and clinical research on why certain brain regions are more vulnerable to abnormal protein accumulation and damage in LBD and FTD patients.
  • Mechanisms of Pathological Spread of Abnormal Proteins in LBD and FTD – to increase basic and clinical research on how abnormal proteins spread in the nervous system of LBD and FTD patients.
  • Connecting Pre-mortem Clinical Information with Post-Mortem Brain Analysis in LBD – to increase the linkage of comprehensive pre-mortem clinical information with gold standard post-mortem diagnostic analysis in patients with LBD.
  • Treatments for LBD-Exploratory Clinical Trial – to encourage exploratory clinical trials (Phase I or II) testing either new or repurposed drugs or devices to treat patients with LBD.
  • Center Without Walls for Molecular Mechanisms of Neurodegeneration in FTD – to continue support for interdisciplinary team science aimed at elucidating the molecular mechanisms underlying neurodegeneration in FTD, with a focus on examining the role of tau, TDP-43 or FUS pathogenesis, and specific genetic causes and risks factors.
  • Small Vessel VCID Biomarker Validation for Clinical Trials and Coordinating Center – to continue support for a consortium (currently implemented as MarkVCID) to develop and validate high-quality small vessel VCID biomarkers ready for use in clinical trials, and for generating scientific breakthroughs in the understanding and treatment of VCID.

AD/ADRD - At-A-Glance

  • AD affects more than 5 million people in the U.S.
  • FTD is the leading cause of dementia in people under age 60
  • LBD affects more than 1 million Americans and slightly more men than women
  • Cerebrovascular disease often co-occurs with AD
  • Reducing vascular risk factors may reduce risk for dementia
  • The majority of all dementia cases (age 65+) are mixed dementias, mainly Alzheimer’s pathology mixed with cerebrovascular disease and/or Lewy bodies
  • No known treatments prevent AD/ADRD onset or progression

Extended Payline for AD/ADRD Investigator-initiated Research

Since FY2016, the NIA has utilized a higher pay line for AD/ADRD research to support investigator-initiated research grants, which it extends to NINDS for applications that meet this bar. This pay line is considerably higher than the pay line for other types of research in either NINDS or NIA. NINDS remains very interested in grant submissions focused on innovative ideas that could lead to prevention or effective treatment of AD/ADRD. 

NIH Estimates of Funding for Various Research, Condition, and Disease Categories

Research/Disease Areas* FY 2016
FY 2017
FY 2018
FY 2019
Alzheimer's Disease Including
Alzheimer's Disease Related
Dementias (AD/ADRD)
$986 $1,423 $1,911 $2,398
Alzheimer's Disease $929 $1,361 $1,789 $2,240
Frontotemporal Dementia $65 $91 $94 $158
Lewy Body Dementia $22 $31 $38 $66
Vascular Contributions to Cognitive Impairment and Dementia $89 $130 $259 $299

*Dollars in millions and rounded

Proceedings & Outcomes

ADRD 2016 summit poster

AD/ADRD Summits

The National Plan’s Goal 1 aims to prevent and effectively treat (delay onset, slow progression of) AD/ADRD by 2025. To help achieve Goal 1, and as a federal action specified in the National Plan, periodic summits are held to set and refine AD/ADRD research priorities in the National Plan. Visit the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) to learn more about the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer's Disease-Related Dementias Summit 2019

Alzheimer's Research Summit 2018

Alzheimer's Disease-Related Dementias Summit 2016; Proceedings article summarizing the 2016 Alzheimer's Disease-Related Dementias Summit

Alzheimer's Disease Research Summit 2015

Alzheimer's Disease-Related Dementias Summit Conference 2013; Proceedings article summarizing the 2013 Alzheimer's Disease-Related Dementias Conference

Resources and Tools

Research priorities for ADRD are identified and updated through periodic NIH-hosted ADRD Summits.

IADRP reports categories of funded research supported by public and private organizations both in the US and abroad all categorized using the Common Alzheimer's and Related Dementias Research Ontology (CADRO)

A national database of standardized clinical and neuropathological research data (NIA/NIH). The standardized data and neuropathology data are collected at the NIA funded Alzheimer’s Disease Centers.

Tool for tracking funding initiatives and activities aimed at achieving the Research Milestones that were developed from NIH-hosted AD and ADRD Summits. 

NCRAD is an NIA funded biorepository for Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias studies.  NCRAD banks a variety of biospecimens including DNA, RNA, plasma, serum, CSF, LCLs, and PBMCs

Available cell sources currently include fibroblasts and/or induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells.

BioSEND currently banks a variety of biospecimens including DNA, plasma, serum, RNA, CSF, and saliva from 16 different biomarker studies that focus on neurological and neuropsychiatric diseases.

Housing over  DNA samples and cell lines.

AlzPED serves as a knowledge platform for the dissemination of data and analysis in a manner that promotes efficiency, transparency, reproducibility and accuracy of research aimed at preclinical therapy development for AD.

The PDBP facilitates biomarker discovery and validation efforts, leveraging broadly shared clinical and biospecimen data, with the overarching goal of improving clinical trial design and therapeutic development in PD, Lewy Body Dementia (LBD), and Parkinsonisms.

Since 2013, the NIH NeuroBioBank has catalyzed scientific discovery through the centralization of resources aimed at the collection and distribution of human post-mortem brain tissue.