The killer disease affects thousands of Britons, but scientists are no closer to finding a cure despite years of research.
Dementia is the leading cause of death in England and Wales, costing the UK£24billion a year in treatment and care.
Bart de Strooper, director of the new £250million Dementia Research Institute, said that past lines of inquiry have been too narrow.
He added: “In the past we researchers have had too simplistic an approach to dementia.
“But what is emerging is that these brain diseases are highly complex with many processes, not just one. We need to make our research more nuanced.
“In five years’ time I would like to see half a dozen drugs in development and one or two being tested on patients.”
The Belgian scientist was once the head of neurodegenerative research at Leuven University before being headhunted by the institute.
For years, researchers believed that Alzheimer’s and other degenerative diseases were caused by deformed proteins which poison brain cells, known as the ‘amyloid hypothesis’.
But De Strooper’s work challenging the hypothesis attracted attention after drug trials to counteract the rogue proteins by leading drug firms were shown to be ineffective.
Instead, De Strooper advocates a change of tack in Alzheimer’s research and that new avenues should be explored.
He said: “We know that these proteins are involved in Alzheimer’s and other dementias but they are only part of the picture.
“The evidence suggests that inflammation is another key factor in killing brain cells and we should be targeting that.”
Faulty genes are also thought to play a role in developing the disease, according to Research UK’s Oxford drug discovery unit.
Diego Gomez-Nicola, associate professor of neuroscience at Southampton University hailed the opportunity for new research to start.
“This is the beginning of a new era,” he said.
“The field has been narrowly focused on amyloid for years but it has turned out to be the wrong…