Abstract Introduction Despite years of research, there are no disease-modifying drugs for Alzheimer's disease (AD), a fatal, age-related neurodegenerative disorder. Screening for potential therapeutics in rodent models of AD has generally relied on testing compounds before pathology is present, thereby modeling disease prevention rather than disease modification. Furthermore, this approach to screening does not reflect the clinical presentation of AD patients which could explain the failure to translate compounds identified as beneficial in animal models to disease modifying compounds in clinical trials. Clearly a better approach to pre-clinical drug screening for AD is required. Methods To more accurately reflect the clinical setting, we used an alternative screening strategy involving the treatment of AD mice at a stage in the disease when pathology is already advanced. Aged (20-month-old) transgenic AD mice (APP/swePS1ΔE9) were fed an exceptionally potent, orally active, memory enhancing and neurotrophic molecule called J147. Cognitive behavioral assays, histology, ELISA and Western blotting were used to assay the effect of J147 on memory, amyloid metabolism and neuroprotective pathways. J147 was also investigated in a scopolamine-induced model of memory impairment in C57Bl/6J mice and compared to donepezil. Details on the pharmacology and safety of J147 are also included. Results Data presented here demonstrate that J147 has the ability to rescue cognitive deficits when administered at a late stage in the disease. The ability of J147 to improve memory in aged AD mice is correlated with its induction of the neurotrophic factors NGF (nerve growth factor) and BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor) as well as several BDNF-responsive proteins which are important for learning and memory. The comparison between J147 and donepezil in the scopolamine model showed that while both compounds were comparable at rescuing short term memory, J147 was superior at rescuing spatial memory and a combination of the two worked best for contextual and cued memory. Conclusion J147 is an exciting new compound that is extremely potent, safe in animal studies and orally active. J147 is a potential AD therapeutic due to its ability to provide immediate cognition benefits, and it also has the potential to halt and perhaps reverse disease progression in symptomatic animals as demonstrated in these studies.