The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation has announced grants totaling nearly $7 million over three years to five research teams investigating the elusive biological roots of Alzheimer's disease.
Awarded through the Allen Distinguished Investigator program, the grants will fund early-stage research that incorporates novel approaches to studying the basic biological foundations of the disease while also developing new methods to study its basic processes and identify new treatments. Recipients include Ragnhildur Thora Karadottir (University of Cambridge), who was awarded $1.3 million in support of her efforts to identify the role of white matter in Alzheimer's disease progression, and Jeff Iliff and William Rooney (Oregon Health and Science University), who will receive $1.4 million to measure the activity of the glymphatic system — which helps clear plaques from the brain but is impaired in the aging brain — and identify patients who are vulnerable to the build-up of plaques long before clinical symptoms arise.
Other recipients include Fred "Rusty" Gage (Salk Institute), who was awarded $1.5 million in support of his efforts to use cutting-edge cell culture methods and high-throughput RNA sequencing and bioinformatics analysis to compare changes in gene expression due to age; Aimee Kao (University of California, San Francisco), who will receive $1.3 million to examine the hypothesis that impaired regulation of cellular pH prevents protein clearance and promotes protein aggregation in Alzheimer's disease; and Michael Keiser, Martin Kampmann, and David Kokel (UCSF), who were awarded $1.4 million to combine computational analysis of a big data set of triple-screened drug compounds, the massively parallel functional interrogation of all human genes and hundreds of thousands of gene combinations, and high throughput behavioral analysis of gene and drug effects in a novel zebrafish model of the disease.
"We cannot hope to fight Alzheimer's until we understand the basic biology that underlies the onset and progression of disease," said Tom Skalak, executive director for science and technology at the Allen Family Foundation. "The Allen Distinguished Investigator projects will provide crucial fresh direction in Alzheimer's disease research, in part because they include team member perspectives both from within and outside the Alzheimer’s field. We know that these kinds of creative, cutting-edge projects will produce new diagnostics, treatments, or even cures for this devastating disease."