No Effective Prevention, Treatment

It has been a big week for Alzheimer’s disease research with large grants being awarded to multiple organizations, and a private donation of $50 million going to the University of Washington Medicine.

A portion of the Federal budget was passed by Congress and signed into law at the beginning of the 2019 fiscal year. This partial budget provided funding for the Department of Health and Human Services, which includes the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and within that organization, the National Institute on Aging (NIA).

The Indiana University School of Medicine was awarded a $36 million grant from the NIH to launch a drug discovery center to accelerate the development of promising treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.

The center is a strategic partnership with the Purdue Institute for Drug Discovery. It is one of only two such multi-institution teams in the nation selected as part of a new federal program intended to “improve, diversify and reinvigorate the Alzheimer’s disease drug development pipeline,” according to the National Institute on Aging, which is part of the NIH and is funding the program.

The IU-led center will initially focus on proteins, or targets, related to the brain’s immune system that may contribute to Alzheimer’s disease. They will be culled from an extensive list of potential targets nominated by researchers at elite medical institutions across the nation as part of the NIA-led Accelerating Medicines Partnership on Alzheimer’s Disease.

“We are extremely grateful to the National Institutes of Health for this extraordinary grant that will further IU’s robust efforts to advance the scientific research needed to fulfill our vision of slowing—and ultimately defeating—a disease that has resisted effective treatment for far too long,” Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie said in a press release.

The establishment of the NIA-funded drug discovery centers comes at a time when many pharmaceutical companies are scaling back efforts in the area or refocusing their strategies following setbacks of expensive, late-stage drug trials. The goal is to develop high-quality research tools and new technologies needed to broaden the number of targets being investigated, and for universities to conduct the earliest stages of drug discovery, eliminating some of the risk for pharmaceutical companies, biotech firms and other investors.

MAC Inc. announced in September that the agency had received $1 million in grant funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Community Living to launch its Life Bridges Project.

“The program will assist people with Alzheimer’s and dementia, especially those living alone, to remain independent at home by providing community-based interventions and programs. The program will also feature a caregiver resource center, which includes supports and emerging technologies in Alzheimer’s care,” Carol Zimmerman, director of the Life Bridges Project at MAC.

The Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research (CNDR) at the University of Pennsylvania received a grant expected to total $18.1 million “to study the underlying genetic mechanisms that cause Alzheimer’s Disease, Dementia, and Parkinson’s Disease to progress as well as how those mechanisms are related to each other and to the cell-to-cell spread of these disease proteins.”

A generous $50 million gift was given to University of Washington Medicine by Lynn and Mike Garvey this week, which will eventually become the Garvey Institute for Brain Health Solutions.

The Garvey Institute will focus on three main areas for the first five years: cognitive aging and brain wellness, the effects of physical and emotional trauma on the brain and addiction.

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Gary Chandler is a prion expert. He is the CEO of Crossbow Communications, author of several books and producer of documentaries about health and environmental issues around the world. Chandler is connecting the dots to the global surge in neurodegenerative disease, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, chronic wasting disease and other forms of prion disease.