Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has announced a $15 million gift from Paula C. and Rodger O. Riney in support of efforts to accelerate research on and the development of new treatments for neurodegenerative diseases.
The gift includes $10 million to fund Alzheimer's disease research and $5 million to support studies of Parkinson's. A portion of the funds will be used to establish a repository of Alzheimer's biomarker data that can aid in the development of tools to diagnose the disease, predict its progression, and monitor the effectiveness of treatment. Biomarkers are measurable signs of disease such as atrophied brain tissue or clumps of amyloid beta and tau proteins in the brain; the repository will include brain scans from Alzheimer's patients as well as samples of their blood and cerebrospinal fluid.
The gift also will support the development of imaging techniques for measuring effects of potential drug treatment for Parkinson's on brain activity, a key step toward a clinical trial, as well as studies of how and why dementia develops in Parkinson's patients and the role of brain inflammation in the disease.
Rodger Riney, founder of the discount brokerage firm Scottrade, and his wife have firsthand experience with the ravages of neurodegenerative diseases, as both had a parent who suffered from dementia, which occurs in 80 percent of Parkinson's patients. Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia.
The Rineys have previously given $25 million to the medical school, including $20 million in support of multiple myeloma research by a team of physicians and scientists at the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and WUSTL School of Medicine, where Rodger Riney is being treated for the blood cancer.
"The cost of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's on families and society is just devastating," said Riney. "We felt we wanted to do something substantive to help solve these problems. We were very impressed with the work at Washington University to find effective treatments and improve early diagnosis for these diseases, and we wanted to make a significant investment that would accelerate this important research."