UK Research and Innovation: UK and US join forces to tackle dementia with innovative biomarkers

10 July 2024

Innovate UK has awarded four UK companies a share of £4 million funding through Contracts for Innovation to support innovative research into dementia diagnosis.

The funding will enable organisations to evaluate blood-based and digital biomarkers as part of the Bio-Hermes-002 study. This international study is led by the Global Alzheimer’s Platform Foundation® (GAP), a leading research group based in the US.

This Innovate UK investment forms an important part of the Dame Barbara Windsor Dementia Mission, a government-led effort committed to realising a new generation of precision dementia therapies and solutions for the UK.

Transformative research

The Bio-Hermes-002 study, under GAP’s leadership, focuses on exploring digital and blood-based biomarkers that can predict the extent of tau and amyloid brain pathology as measured by positron emission tomography (PET) brain imaging. These biomarkers have the potential to provide more efficient and less invasive alternatives to the current gold standard of dementia diagnosis, which relies on tau and amyloid PET scans.

The study will engage an ethnically diverse cohort of 1,000 participants shown to be cognitively normal (CN), have mild cognitive impairment (MCI), or have mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s Diseases (AD) dementia. The participants are from across 30 sites in the UK, US, Canada and Europe.

Addressing a global health challenge

Dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, is a significant health and economic challenge globally. In the UK alone, dementia care costs are estimated at £25 billion annually. With the global prevalence of dementia expected to triple by 2050, there is an urgent need for innovative diagnostic methods and treatments.

Our ambition is to delay the onset of dementia and improve the quality of life for those affected. This aligns with the Chief Medical Officer’s 2023 report on ageing, emphasising the need to advance healthcare to address the growing burden of age-related diseases.

Building on existing investments

The Bio-Hermes-002 study is poised to significantly advance the understanding and diagnosis of dementia globally, with the ambition of more effective and less costly diagnostic methods. This initiative leverages the UK’s robust research ecosystem and ongoing investments to deliver life-changing innovations for dementia patients.

By fostering collaboration and providing funding that enables small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to access the study, Innovate UK and GAP are taking crucial steps that will expedite dementia clinical trials by quickly identifying appropriate eligible patients. The lack of a simple, cost-effective method to identify patients is a major risk factor in the development of much needed new therapeutics for dementia.

Driving the UK Dementia Mission internationally

Hilary Evans, Dementia Mission Co-Chair and Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK said:

I’m delighted to see the Mission funding innovative biomarker research through Bio-Hermes-002 that will help transform how dementia is diagnosed. Despite dementia being a global health crisis, too many people are left waiting anxiously to get diagnosis or will never even receive a formal diagnosis. Projects like Bio-Hermes-002 will help us find a cost-effective, faster and more accurate way to diagnose dementia than what is currently available.

Diagnosing the disease in its earliest stages will be even more important if people are to access new first-of-a-kind treatments that are on the horizon and will also be vital to helping identify people who can be part in research. It’s also fantastic to see how the Mission is opening more opportunities for the UK to forge international collaborations, so we can be part of the world-leading effort in the fight against the devastation that dementia inflicts.

Nadeem Sarwar, Dementia Mission Co-Chair and Co-Founder and Head, Transformational Prevention Unit at Novo Nordisk said:

Validation and implementation of decision-enabling biomarkers is a key pillar of the UK Dementia Mission. I am excited, therefore, that we will be partnering with Bio-Hermes-002 to accelerate and reduce to practice the translation of breakthroughs in cutting-edge biomarker sciences, so we can be better and faster at predicting, diagnosing and stratifying the disease. Enabling such cutting-edge science is core to the vision of the UK dementia mission, of realising a new paradigm of precision dementia therapies.

This partnership also exemplifies the key role international, multi-sector and entrepreneurial partnerships play in the UK Dementia Mission. Through such partnerships, the UK Dementia Mission can help lead the fight against this devastating disease, and bring hope and solutions to patients and their caregivers.

Dr Stella Peace, Executive Director for Healthy Living and Agriculture Domain at Innovate UK, said:

We’re pleased to enable four UK SMEs to join this groundbreaking dementia study, building on our reputation as a global innovation leader. With our robust research base, cutting-edge facilities, and strong regulatory standards, we’re poised to offer valuable insights to this international effort.

Our broad network of regional and global partnerships connects businesses to fresh (cutting edge) opportunities, locally and globally. By fostering collaboration and sharing expertise, we’re committed to driving business growth and transforming the landscape of dementia care and support, providing hope and improved outcomes for patients and their families to make life better.

John Dwyer, President, Global Alzheimer’s Platform Foundation, said:

Our collaboration with Innovate UK represents an important example of how to catalyse novel AD biomarker research without sacrificing quality or rigor. We are grateful for Innovate UK’s partnership and commitment to the field. In conjunction with Innovate UK, we are excited to welcome four of the UK’s leading emerging AD technology companies to participate in GAP’s Bio-Hermes-002 study.

We designed Bio-Hermes-002 to accelerate research into cognitive and plasma biomarkers highly correlated with the amyloid and tau pathologies underpinning Alzheimer’s disease. We are confident that the winners of the Innovate UK competition will make a major contribution to this endeavor and advance our ability to better diagnose and treat Alzheimer’s disease for patients around the world.

Further information

Bio-Hermes-002: Cambridge Cognition digital biomarkers

Project Lead: Cambridge Cognition Limited

Cambridge Cognition is contributing to this project by providing tools to measure digital biomarkers through touch screen and voice assessments on an iPad. These tests look at memory, language and other cognitive skills that are affected early on in Alzheimer’s. Cambridge Cognition has extensive experience working with clinical trials and has supported over 3,000 studies.

First in class artificial intelligence (AI) enabled digital biomarker for dementia risk prediction and characterisation


AINOSTICS’ technology can automatically and intelligently analyse scans to provide sensitive and accurate micro-structural information about key tissue and organ structures, and then compare this with information from healthy populations to detect the signatures of the disease. We intend for AINOSTICS’ software to become a routine part of clinical practice and drug development as the results of our intelligent analysis will provide clinicians, researchers and imaging centres with a convenient and cost-effective means to obtain reliable, quantitative, and objective diagnostic and prognostic data.

Next generation Alzheimer’s disease screening using blood-based Optomics profiling


iLoF’s groundbreaking Optomics technology utilises photonics and AI to analyse blood-based biomarkers swiftly and non-invasively. This approach offers a stark contrast to the status quo by eliminating complex processing steps and reducing the need for invasive procedures. The test’s label-free nature and cost-effectiveness aim to dismantle existing diagnostic barriers, making early and accurate AD detection more accessible than ever before.

Accelerating Alzheimer’s Diagnosis (AccelADx) to enable precision clinical trial patient stratification and clinical care using neurophysiological biomarkers and AI

Project Lead: Cumulus Neuroscience Limited

Cumulus Neuroscience enables biopharma to collect longitudinal, objective real-world data in clinical studies both in the clinic and in the home. The platform includes a medically approved EEG headset and tablet-based versions of validated assessments.
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