Neuroscientists at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology are hoping a $25.8 million grant will lift their bid to find a cure for Alzheimer's disease. The biochemistry department team received the University Grants Committee Area of Excellence award to help them fully identify and develop chemical compounds to inhibit memory loss caused by the brain disease. Led by Professor Nancy Ip Yuk-yu, director of HKUST's Biotechnology Research Institute, the team is seeking leads that would allow pharmaceutical firms to develop drugs commercially. Over the next five years, they will test the effects of thousands of compounds, taken from dozens of Chinese herbs, on nerve cells identified as blocking or exacerbating the disease. They are testing their theories using rats trained to remember their way through an underwater maze. The rats are injected with neurotoxins to cause memory impairment, and then injected with one of the experimental compounds and placed back in the maze to see if their memory of how to negotiate it is regained. 'It is an extensive research, since you need to identify each single compound and find out about its bio-activity,' Professor Ip said. 'We are adopting Western modern technology but our approach is one based on knowledge about Chinese medicine.' Scientists usually expect only about a handful of drug leads from up to 20,000 compounds, said colleague Dr Han Yifan.