Neurochemist Dr Gill Langley called for a fundamental "paradigm shift" away from lab mice and monkeys to new techniques based on human biology.
Writing in the journal Drug Discovery Today, she maintained that species differences had doomed research based on animal models, such as genetically engineered mice, to failure.
Decades of animal-based drug development had not found a single treatment that reversed the disease in humans, she pointed out.
She wrote: "The five approved drugs for AD (Alzheimer's disease) can stabilise symptoms temporarily, but do not slow disease progression. Around half of patients benefit modestly, but there is an urgent need for better, disease-modifying therapies as well as preventative measures."
Dr Langley is an active campaigner for animal testing alternatives and senior adviser to the animal protection organisation Human Society International.