Stopping the accumulation of abnormal tau protein in the brain holds great potential to delay, slow or prevent Alzheimer's dementia. Amyloid "plaques" and tau "tangles" are two hallmark brain changes of Alzheimer's disease. Research suggests that tangles are associated with worsening cognition, and they may play a key role in the death of brain cells. Normal tau protein stabilizes neurons, but abnormal tau interferes with their structure and function, resulting in brain cell death and subsequent dementia. Toxic tau is also associated with other neurodegenerative disorders, including Parkinson’s disease, frontotemporal dementia, progressive supranuclear palsy and other “tauopathies.”
Recent research progress is generating exciting new opportunities to develop anti-tau therapies. Laboratory researchers are making great strides in identifying the biological pathways that cause tau to accumulate. At the same time, the recent development of tau PET brain imaging is enabling clinical researchers to track the deposition of tau in the brains of living individuals and to determine how it is associated with cognitive decline. These advances are providing — for the first time — the foundation for the development and testing of innovative drug targets, pharmacological agents and other therapeutic strategies for tauopathies.
The Tau Pipeline Enabling Program (T-PEP) was created to accelerate the translation of tau research breakthroughs from “bench to bedside.” There is a considerable gap between advancements in scientific understanding of the biological underpinnings of the disease and the testing of drug candidates in clinical trials. Through T-PEP we award grants to researchers to devise innovative treatments that aim to prevent, reduce, remove or otherwise mitigate the toxic effects of tau build-up. This scientific work is intended to accelerate the bench-to-bedside timeline — the period from discovery in the laboratory to clinical trials that evaluate potential clinical treatments to stop or slow disease progression.
We seek philanthropic partners to join us in advancing promising new therapies via T-PEP. The Alzheimer’s Association has leveraged a dollar-to-dollar match from the Rainwater Charitable Foundation to award 13 T-PEP grants totaling nearly $7 million. In 2022 we will award up to five more grants ranging from $750,000 to $1 million, and we seek to raise at least $2 million in philanthropic support to fulfill our funding commitment. By enriching the pipeline for development and testing of disease-modifying therapies, T-PEP promises to make important contributions toward achieving the national goal of preventing and effectively treating Alzheimer’s disease by 2025.