ABOARD stopping Alzheimer’s before it starts

In April 2021, the Dutch project ABOARD (A personalised medicine approach for Alzheimer’s disease), a collaboration of more than thirty partners, was launched. ABOARD aims to prepare for a future in which Alzheimer’s is stopped before dementia begins. ABOARD achieves this by improving diagnostic markers, developing personalised risk scores and by focusing on prevention through increased awareness of dementia and brain health.

In the Netherlands, almost 300.000 individuals are living with dementia, a number that grows by 20.000 every year. Dementia is one of the biggest health care challenges of our century. Dementia is largely caused by Alzheimer’s disease, for which there is no cure yet. To lower the number of individuals with dementia, ABOARD focuses on the Alzheimer-stages before dementia onset.

Prevention is the key

Wiesje van der Flier, principal investigator of ABOARD and scientific director of the Alzheimer Center Amsterdam commented: “We now know that Alzheimer’s develops over a period of twenty to thirty years. And there is the key to finding solutions: intervening before the disease manifests clinically. We need to reach people at risk of getting the disease. And those people are all of us, actually. That is why we want to increase the awareness of Alzheimer’s among the general public. In addition, we take the necessary steps to prepare for a future in which personalised medicine is possible. Sharing knowledge about ways to boost your brain health and supporting people with Alzheimer’s is also a part of this project. There is still a lot of work to do.”

Predict the course of the disease

ABOARD researchers are going to develop tests that allow for an early and precise diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. These tests must identify the first brain changes, and they need to recognise variability between patients. Based on these tests, we develop personalised risk profiles to predict individual disease trajectories.

Personalised treatment

Practitioners often get the same question after diagnosing Alzheimer’s: ‘What can I do myself to slow the disease process?’. Van der Flier: “Prevention by making lifestyle changes can be useful, but lifestyle interventions are not yet offered as part of the treatment plan in memory clinics. We also see rapid developments in the field of pharmaceutical treatments. We need to take the necessary steps to prepare the Dutch healthcare system for the first Alzheimer treatments. ABOARD pays particular attention to including individuals in all aspects of their disease and its treatment, since no human being is the same.”

Stopping Alzheimer’s before the onset of dementia

The ABOARD-consortium brings together over 30 partners, among which the five Dutch Alzheimer centres and patient organisation Alzheimer Nederland. Public and private parties across the entire knowledge chain work together: from universities to care and knowledge institutions, civil society organisations and businesses.

“From the Dementia Care Standard, we see the importance of early diagnosis. It’s great that so many organizations and various professionals are working on this and that we are building a bridge between care and cure. With Alzheimer Nederland we are focusing on the dissemination of knowledge and making research accessible. We are indeed getting ABOARD with each other. That image appeals to me. In sailing you have to be steady on your course, but also agile so you can adapt to the circumstances. Hereby we contribute to the mission of ABOARD, stopping Alzheimer’s before it starts.”

Karlijn Kwint, Vilans Senior Advisor Knowledge, is the programme leader for ABOARD

Would you like to learn more about ABOARD?


ABOARD is the first research project to be launched as part of the National Dementia Strategy 2021-2030 of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport. It also gives further effect to the Knowledge and Innovation Agenda 2020-2023 of Health~Holland, in which public and private partners in Mission IV collaborate to improve the quality of life of people with dementia.

Contact for this project:

Senior Advisor Knowledge