NEW YORK, February 26, 2013- The New York Academy of Sciences (the Academy), in partnership with the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF) and with generous support by AstraZeneca, has awarded a $140,000 challenge grant to Douglas R. Galasko, MD, from the University of California, San Diego, to support his research on protein biomarkers that may indicate synaptic dysfunction and degeneration related to Alzheimer's disease.
In order to more effectively identify the presence of Alzheimer's disease and measure progression of the disease—important for both research efforts and clinical care—Dr. Galasko and his team have identified two proteins in the spinal fluid that are expressed during synaptic activity related to information storage and decrease throughout the course of Alzheimer's disease. These proteins begin decreasing early in the disease process and the decrease becomes more pronounced with disease progression.
Using the challenge grant funding, Dr. Galasko, partnering with Dr. Paul Worley at Johns Hopkins Medical Center, plan to develop more sensitive and specific assays to measure the proteins over time in the spinal fluid and brain of patients with mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer's disease, and controls.
"Progress in early diagnosis, monitoring and therapeutics for Alzheimer's disease has been hampered by a lack of short-term, sensitive biomarkers that correlate closely to disease progression and clinical outcomes," says Dr. Galasko, who is a neurologist and director of the Shiley-Marcos Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at University of California, San Diego. "Currently there is no in vivo biomarker directly related to cognitive function in Alzheimer's disease. We are excited to have found two novel synaptic function-related proteins correlated with dementia severity and are grateful for this opportunity to develop and validate them as biomarkers."
Need for Public-Private Partnership
The public health impact of Alzheimer's disease and dementia is tremendous, and is worsening over time due to the aging global population. The award to Dr. Galasko represents the Academy's inaugural challenge grant to promote collaborative research on cutting-edge, innovative approaches to develop improved diagnostics and treatments for Alzheimer's disease and dementia.
"Considering the lack of effective therapies in Alzheimer's disease, the Academy decided to take action by convening the major players across public and private sectors in a pre-competitive dialogue designed to identify novel approaches to this growing public health issue," says Ellis Rubinstein, president and chief executive officer of the Academy.
The Academy's resulting Alzheimer's Disease & Dementia Initiative is the umbrella under which leaders from academia, the pharmaceutical industry, health policy, and the non-profit sector come together to identify and support viable pathways toward the ultimate goal of mitigating and eliminating Alzheimer's disease and dementia.
To spur much-needed research in biomarkers, identified as the 2012 priority area by the Alzheimer's Disease & Dementia Leadership Council, the Academy and the ADDF last year issued a request for proposals for the development and validation of biomarkers for Alzheimer's disease and dementia.
The Galasko-Worley proposal was selected for funding from a pool of 20 applicants by an interdisciplinary panel of experts with expertise in biomarkers, Alzheimer's disease, and drug discovery and development.
A New Path Forward
"The ADDF is excited to partner with the Academy and AstraZeneca on this challenge grant that specifically addresses the need for biomarkers that researchers and clinicians can use to quickly and sensitively detect responses to new treatments," says Howard Fillit, MD, executive director and chief scientific officer of the ADDF. "Dr. Galasko's research is highly novel and focuses on a biomarker relevant to synaptic dysfunction, a key process directly associated with cognitive decline."
"As a neuroscience community, we still have a long way to go in understanding and managing Alzheimer's disease and we must find new paths of inquiry and scientific discovery," says Alan Cross, PhD, senior director of the Neuroscience Innovative Medicines at AstraZeneca. "AstraZeneca is proud to be part of the Alzheimer's Disease & Dementia Initiative and to support Dr. Galasko's promising biomarker research."
Just as the development of biomarkers is a critical research goal, many other research questions must be answered to reach the ultimate goal of mitigating and eliminating diseases of dementia. The Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia Initiative will begin its 2013 grant program, focusing on another vital research topic related to Alzheimer's disease, with a request for proposals in Spring/Summer 2013.
About the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation
The mission of the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF) is to accelerate the discovery of drugs to prevent, treat and cure Alzheimer's disease, related dementias and cognitive aging. The ADDF has granted more than $60 million to fund nearly 400 Alzheimer's drug discovery programs in academic centers and biotechnology companies in 18 countries. For more information, please visit www.AlzDiscovery.org.
About the New York Academy of Sciences
The New York Academy of Sciences is an independent, not-for-profit organization that since 1817 has been committed to advancing science, technology, and society worldwide. With 25,000 members in 140 countries, the Academy is creating a global community of science for the benefit of humanity. The Academy's core mission is to advance scientific knowledge, positively impact the major global challenges of society with science-based solutions, and increase the number of scientifically informed individuals in society at large. Please visit us online at www.nyas.org.