Tag Archives: Alzheimer’s disease

alzheimer

Banner study could slow progression of Alzheimer’s

Banner Alzheimer’s Institute has announced that it is participating in a new, national, Alzheimer’s disease (AD) clinical research study evaluating the potential benefits of an investigational medicine when taken by people with mild-to-moderate AD who are already being treated with donepezil (Aricept).

Entitled NOBLE, the trial is evaluating an investigational drug, T-817MA, which may have the potential to modify the pace of the disease in those who are currently suffering with mild-to-moderate AD.

The advent of NOBLE comes at a time when the AD clinical research community is moving to prevention-oriented trials that don’t include those already diagnosed with the disease.  An estimated five million people in the U.S. already suffer from mild-to-moderate AD, with those numbers growing at an alarming rate. However, no new drug has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of AD since 2003. The NOBLE study was launched to potentially help address this gap in treatment.

“The impact of Alzheimer’s disease both for sufferers and their loved ones is staggering, and many people living with mild-to-moderate AD may feel left behind when it comes to options that could slow the pace of the disease,” said William Burke, MD. “We are proud to take part in this important study to evaluate a treatment that may contribute to changing the game for people suffering with AD and their families in the future, and to advance the research around breakthrough therapy options for Alzheimer’s disease.”

AD develops when nerve cells in the brain no longer function normally, causing a change in one’s memory, behavior and ability to think clearly. The NOBLE study will explore the potential of T-817MA, a neuroprotectant agent designed to protect against neuron loss. Neuroprotectants are used for many central nervous system disorders including stroke and Parkinson’s disease.

During the mild-to-moderate stage, people with AD begin to show significant decline in cognitive function, from forgetfulness about one’s personal history and becoming moody and withdrawn in social situations to an inability to identify the day of the week or where they are. As a result of this decline, sufferers with mild-to-moderate AD often require round the clock care.

In consultation with family caregivers, clinicians at Banner Alzheimer’s Institute are now seeking eligible candidates for NOBLE. Potential volunteers should live with or be in regular contact with a partner or family caregiver who can assist with their consideration of participation and accompany them to study visits.

Banner Alzheimer’s Institute is one of 50 centers nationally who will participate in the NOBLE Study. The study is sponsored by Toyama Chemical Co., Ltd., FUJIFILM Group, makers of T-817MA, and is being conducted by the Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study (ADCS), the largest Alzheimer’s disease therapeutic research consortium in the United States. To be eligible to participate, people must be between 55 and 85 with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease, have been taking donepezil (Aricept®) for at least 6 months, and have a study partner that has regular contact with the candidate and is able to attend study visits.

For additional information on the NOBLE study, visit http://www.adcs.org/Studies/Noble.aspx or contact NOBLEStudy@mslgroup.com.

alzheimers_brain

Ladies fight: Women face higher risk for Alzheimer’s

Every 67 seconds, someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. It is no longer considered another ailment of getting older, but rather an epidemic because of the staggering increase in Alzheimer’s diagnoses, particularly among women. Statistics show that one in eight women will be diagnosed with the disease. With Baby Boomers aging, this number is estimated to rise to one in six women, compared with one in 11 men who will be affected by the disease. Alzheimer’s robs loved ones of their memories and eventually the capacity to function. It is just as detrimental to the individual with Alzheimer’s as to the family members who are left to take care of them.

The epidemic could be just as deadly to the healthcare system. If nothing is done before the impending influx of women who will be diagnosed with the disease in the upcoming years, “We risk bankrupting our current healthcare system,” said Jessica Langbaum, principal scientist at Banner Alzheimer’s Institute in Phoenix. “If we do nothing and maintain the status quo, we will not be able to handle the surge of patients with Alzheimer’s because we are not equipped for it now.”

Medical experts fear that the current healthcare system will cripple under the stress caring for the increasing number of people who will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Already, the statistics show that women in their 60s are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s than they are to develop breast cancer.

PAYING THE BILL
There are 78 million Baby Boomers in the U.S. Each day, about 10,000 of them turn 65, which is the at-risk age for being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The majority of them are women.
“We are already starting to see an increase in women with Alzheimer’s,” said Lori Whitesell, owner of SYNERGY Home Care.

This can only complicate the expenses and funds being paid by Medicare and Medicaid, which are already expected to be responsible for a $150 billion bill this year to treat patients with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. The national cost of caring for people with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia is projected to reach $214 billion within the next two years. As of right now, each family can expect to pay about $56,800 a year for a family member with Alzheimer’s, making it the most expensive disease in the country.

In 2011, President Barack Obama recognized the growing concern and signed into law the National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA). This project is designed to create and maintain an integrated national plan to find a cure for Alzheimer’s. The plan is to coordinate research and services across all of the federal agencies that are focusing their energy on the disease, as well as accelerate the development of treatments that would prevent, cure or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s.

“It’s a race to figure out what to do,” said Bob Roth, managing partner of Cypress HomeCare Solutions, “and, thankfully, everyone is working together.”
NAPA hopes to increase early detection and wants to be able to prevent and effectively treat the disease by 2025.

Alzheimer’s 10 warning signs

ARIZONA HIT HARD
Despite the government’s efforts, it is only a matter of time before the epidemic of Alzheimer’s hits America. Out of the 5 million people who currently suffer from Alzheimer’s, 3.2 million are women. In Arizona alone, 11 percent of the seniors have Alzheimer’s. It is the fifth-leading cause of death in the state and it is estimated that in 2014 there will be a total of 120,000 seniors with Alzheimer’s in Arizona. It has been found that more senior citizens die from Alzheimer’s than prostate and breast cancer combined. Alzheimer’s disease is the only cause of death among the Top 10 in the United States that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed.

To compound the problem, there are currently not enough care facilities, hospitals or caregivers in the U.S. to help take care of the Baby Boomer generation, which is expected to raise the number of people with Alzheimer’s to 16 million people by 2025.

“The statistics that we have now are probably an underestimation because of the people that are trying to hide the fact that they have the disease,” said Roth, who is also on the board for the Banner Alzheimer’s Foundation.

Roth said many senior citizens are either afraid of what will happen to them or they ignore the symptoms of the disease. Studies have shown that women tend to live longer than men and will be widowed or separated from their families for the last 10 to15 years of their lives, which severely limits the number of people who can help support them.

HARD TO UNDERSTAND
Not only is it hard to know what will happen in the near future with our healthcare system, but the disease itself is still very misunderstood. It is known that Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease. In the beginning stages, the memory loss is mild; however, as the illness advances to the later stages, the patient loses the ability to carry on a conversation as well as the loss of motor functions.

Scientists have yet to find the real cause of this disease, but they believe that it starts in the brain cells, also known as neurons. The brain has more than 100 billion neurons that connect with each other to form a communication network. Researchers think that Alzheimer’s is created by an amyloid plaque buildup between the neurons, which prevents the brain cells from working properly. This causes a breakdown of the brain’s communication system and the cells lose the ability to do their job. The cells eventually die and cause irreversible damage to the brain. As the neurons die, the entire brain shrinks from tissue loss. Due to the amount of brain damage, the average person with Alzheimer’s lives about eight years.

lower your risk Alzheimer’s

Currently, there are 10 million women in the U.S. who have Alzheimer’s or are caring for someone with the disease. Most caregivers are unpaid and work without any support. They usually have to give up their jobs because taking care of someone with Alzheimer’s is a 24-hour-a-day job. There are two and a half times as many women providing intensive care for Alzheimer’s patients than men. Women who take on the role of full-time caregiver are strongly encouraged to use respite care so that they can get the breaks needed to be able to take care of themselves.

LOOKING FOR ANSWERS
Banner Alzheimer’s Institute is the largest Alzheimer’s research facility in the country. It is recognized as a world leader in brain imaging research. It uses advanced brain imaging techniques that help researchers detect and track any brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s before memory loss and thinking issues arise. On Feb. 7, 2012, the Obama administration announced a historic investment of $156 million to Alzheimer’s research.

“We’re so grateful for the funds that Obama gave us, but we need more,” Langbaum said. ““It’s wonderful that the government has made (Alzheimer’s research) a priority, but a lot needs to happen before we can find a cure or a treatment by the deadline they have set in 2025. Right now, we don’t have the funds to do that.”

brain

5 Brain-Health Tips from Bodybuilding Neurosurgeon

As a fitness expert and neurosurgeon, Dr. Brett Osborn says he appreciates the growing public interest in general health and fitness. Now, he says, that attention needs to extend to arguably our most essential organ – the brain.

“There are several, multi-billion dollar industries out there dedicated to burning fat and building muscle; cognitive health, on the other hand, has been largely overlooked,” says Osborn, author of “Get Serious, A Neurosurgeon’s Guide to Optimal Health and Fitness.”

“Of course, any good health expert is quick to remind readers that it’s all connected. For example, what’s good for the heart will be, directly or indirectly, good for the brain.”

September’s an appropriate time to talk brain health: its World Alzheimer’s Month, and it’s the beginning of football season. By now, we know that football players in the NFL, college and even high school suffer considerable head trauma, whether through big hits resulting in concussions or moderate, repeated blows, he says.

It’s also soccer season in other parts of the world. Concern continues to mount about the neurological damage done to players from repeated headers, where the ball is hit by the head. The long-term effects, including depression and other mental-health problems, are similar to those suffered by American football players, he says.

“Sports can impart great habits to kids, including discipline, fellowship and an emphasis on strength and endurance,” says Osborn, a bodybuilder and father. “As our children return to school and sports, health-care providers, coaches and parents need to make it a top priority to protect our student-athletes’ brains.”

Osborn offers five tips to help everyone maintain brain health:

• Learn new skills. “Just as with other health concerns, brain health should be rooted in the prevention of disease,” he says. Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative disease, the causes of which, and the cure, are unknown. However, it’s widely thought that brain stimulation and activity can delay the onset of the disease. The acquisition of a new skill – whether it’s learning to play an instrument or taking up waterskiing – exercises the brain “muscle.”

• Commit to actual exercise. Everyone knows that exercise helps protect the heart, but not everyone knows that physical activity is also good for the brain. The brain is not a muscle, but it can be worked as muscle is worked during exercise, which forges new neuron pathways.

“Let’s face it, there is a component of learning in exercise,” Osborn says. “You cannot master the squat overnight; the brain has to change. Neuronal connections, or ‘synapses,’ are formed through very complex biophysical mechanisms. That takes time.”

• Don’t sweat stress. There is such a thing as good stress, including the acute bodily stress involved in strength training. Of course, there’s the bad stress, such as psychological stress associated with work or interpersonal relationships, and environmental stress, derived from pesticide-laden food – toxins. As always, you have a choice. You don’t have to accept mental stress in your life. Reconsider toxic relationships. Rethink how you handle pressure at work. Perhaps adopt a lunchtime exercise routine.

• Fuel a better body and brain. “I don’t believe in ‘diets,’ ” Osborn says. “Fit individuals were around for eons before the term existed, and I associate the term with temporary and, often, self-destructive behaviors.”

Again, it’s all connected. A healthy balance of food and activity will inevitably be good for the entire body: the heart, skeleton, muscles, brain, etc. Proper nutrition is a natural mood enhancer, and good health will inevitably improve self-esteem.

• Feed your head with smart drugs. Some pharmaceuticals may help enhance cerebral blood flow and increase concentration, including Hydergine, Deprenyl and Prozac, to name a few. Ask your doctor about these. There are also over-the-counter smart drugs to consider. Piracetam is one of the oldest and has been shown to have a variety of positive effects in patients with cognitive disorders like dementia and epilepsy. Vinpocetine has potent anti-inflammatory effects, and inflammation is a key component in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease, and others. You may also want to check out gingko biloba and pregnenolone.

Medical Technology - AZ Business Magazine January/February 2012

NIH awards BAI, Mayo $8.3 million

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) renewed funding for the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute (BAI) and Mayo Clinic, Phoenix, longitudinal study of the earliest changes associated with the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease at older ages. The award, an estimated $8.3 million over the next five years, continues NIH’s long-term support of the investigation.

The study, which began two decades ago, has been examining the subtle brain imaging, memory and thinking changes that occur in healthy late-middle-aged and older adults who have inherited from their parents either one, two or no copies of the apolipoprotein E (APOE4) gene, the major genetic risk factor for developing late-onset Alzheimer’s. Each additional copy of the gene significantly increases a person’s chance of developing the disease.

“We are extremely grateful to the NIH and our wonderful research volunteers for their support,” said Dr. Eric M. Reiman, BAI Executive Director and one of the study’s principal investigators. “From the beginning, this study has been driven by our interest in finding treatments to prevent or end Alzheimer’s as quickly as possible, and to provide the information and tools needed to do just that.”

By studying individuals at three levels of genetic risk, researchers have been able to get a sneak peek at the changes associated with the risk of Alzheimer’s. As study participants begin to reach older ages, researchers hope to further clarify the extent to which characteristic brain imaging and other biological changes are associated with subsequent clinical decline. Additionally, researchers hope to further clarify the number of at-risk persons needed to conduct prevention trials, as well as share this valuable resource with other researchers and further develop the methods needed to test the range of promising treatments as quickly as possible.

This longitudinal study began in 1994, soon after researchers discovered the APOE4 gene’s contribution to the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. They have been following approximately 200 healthy volunteers with varying copies of the APOE4 gene, starting between the ages of about 50-65. Every two years, participants are monitored using an extensive battery of brain imaging, memory and thinking tests. A growing number of participants have also been providing cerebrospinal fluid samples. As many of the volunteers reach older ages, a growing number are now at risk for developing mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and dementia. This disease progression will give researchers the opportunity to characterize the extent of change in various biomarker and cognitive measurements. Data will be used to evaluate potential treatments that could combat amyloid plaques, which are strongly associated with Alzheimer’s, as well as help inform the design of future prevention trials.

“Like Dr. Reiman, I am excited about the opportunity we have been given to help advance the study of preclinical Alzheimer’s,” said Dr. Richard J. Caselli, Professor of Neurology at Mayo Clinic in Arizona and the study’s other principal investigator. “We also look forward to the chance to share our data and samples with other researchers to help advance the scientific fight against this terrible disease.”

The study has had a profound impact on Alzheimer’s prevention efforts. It has helped shape the field’s understanding of the progressive brain changes that precede the clinical onset of Alzheimer’s by almost two decades. It has also served as the foundation for the Alzheimer’s Prevention Initiative, an international collaborative formed to accelerate the evaluation of promising but unproven therapies. Data from this longitudinal study has also contributed to the development of the National Institute on Aging and Alzheimer’s Association research criteria for pre-clinical Alzheimer’s. It has also provided key information for the first reconceptualization of Alzheimer’s as a sequence of biological changes that progress over a person’s lifetime.

“By providing insights into the earliest Alzheimer’s-related changes to brain function and structure, this study is contributing to the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’ Disease goal of finding effective interventions by 2025,” said Dr. Neil Buckholtz, of the National Institute on Aging, which leads the NIH research program on Alzheimer’s.

This work also includes researchers from Arizona State University, University of Arizona and the Translational Genomics Research Institute, organizations that are partners in the Arizona Alzheimer’s Consortium. Dr. Eric M. Reiman of Banner Alzheimer’s Institute and Dr. Richard J. Caselli of Mayo Clinic are the two principal investigators.

Alzheimer’s is a debilitating and incurable disease that affects as many as 5 million Americans age 65 and older, according to a number of estimates. Without the discovery of successful prevention therapies, the number of U.S. cases is projected to nearly triple by 2050.

bioscience

Helios Scholars at TGen featured at symposium

The 45 interns in the 2014 Helios Scholars at TGen summer internship program graduated today, following a daylong scientific symposium at the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel.

Arizona’s future leaders in biology and medicine worked for eight weeks in one of the nation’s premier scientific internship programs, sponsored by the Helios Education Foundation in partnership with the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen).

At today’s symposium, students presented scientific posters and oral presentations about their biomedical investigations, which were conducted under the one-on-one guidance and mentorship of TGen researchers. Like their mentors, Helios Scholars use cutting-edge technology to help discover the genetic causes of diseases such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, infectious disease and many types of cancer.

This is the eighth class of Helios Scholars at TGen, funded for 25 years by Helios Education Foundation. Helios is focused on creating opportunities for individuals to succeed in postsecondary education by advancing the academic preparedness of all students and fostering a high-expectations, college-going culture in Arizona and Florida.

“TGen’s summer intern program enables students to learn first-hand what it is like to work in a professional scientific environment, and helps them discover the skills they will need to make important contributions in science and medicine,” said Helios Education Foundation President and CEO Paul Luna. “The Helios Scholars at TGen program is helping prepare students for further academic success and for meaningful careers that not only benefit them, but will improve people’s lives through breakthrough medical and scientific research.”

The program is open to Arizona high school, undergraduate and graduate level students, including those in medical school.

“Our partnership with the Helios Education Foundation helps prepare a new generation of biomedical investigators for Arizona,” said Dr. Jeffrey Trent, TGen’s President and Research Director. “As we help them explore the biosciences beyond the classroom, TGen provides them with opportunities to participate in potentially life-changing research that can benefit actual patients.”

Helios Scholars also participate in professional development programs in science communication, public speaking, and basic business etiquette. This year’s interns were selected from among more than 500 applications.

“Our students arrive here with a passion for science and medicine,” said Julie Euber, TGen’s Education and Outreach Specialist and supervisor of the Helios Scholars at TGen. “Participating in authentic research projects helps shape their skills and abilities, preparing them for a lifetime of discovery and achievement in the biosciences.”

The program application opens in January of each year for the following summer at www.tgen.org/intern.

alzheimers

NIH grants Banner Alzheimer’s Institute $33M

In collaboration with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Banner Alzheimer’s Institute (BAI) announces a major prevention trial to evaluate a treatment in cognitively healthy older adults at the highest known genetic risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease at older ages. An NIH grant, expected to total $33.2 million, will support this research.

The study is part of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Initiative (API), an international collaboration led by BAI to accelerate the evaluation of promising but unproven prevention therapies. It will test an anti-amyloid treatment in about 650 adults, ages 60-75, who have two copies of the apolipoprotein E (APOE4) gene, the major genetic risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer’s. None of the participants will have impairments in memory or thinking at the time they enter the study.

“Once again, we are extremely grateful to the NIH for the opportunity to help accelerate the evaluation of treatments to prevent the clinical onset of Alzheimer’s and find ones that work as soon as possible,” said Dr. Eric M. Reiman, BAI Executive Director. “This trial will allow us to extend our work to individuals at greatest risk at older ages.”

The randomized, placebo-controlled trial, which will take place at BAI and other U.S. sites, will test the treatment’s ability to stave off the memory and thinking declines associated with Alzheimer’s. It will also assess the treatment’s effects on different brain imaging and cerebrospinal fluid measurements of the disease. The specific compound to be evaluated has not been decided.

The trial will test what is often called the amyloid hypothesis, which suggests that accumulation of the protein amyloid in the brain plays a key role in the disease’s progression.  Major funding from philanthropy and industry will also support the trial, and its leaders expect to provide data and biological samples to the research community after the trial’s conclusion to help in the scientific fight against Alzheimer’s.
Individuals in the study will learn their APOE4 status. To help them prepare for this information, BAI has convened an expert committee to develop a comprehensive genetic testing and disclosure plan and to assess the impact of this disclosure during the trial.
“Under the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease, our goal is to prevent and effectively treat the disorder by 2025,” said Dr. Neil Buckholtz, of the National Institute on Aging, which leads Alzheimer’s research at the National Institutes of Health.  “We are delighted to support Dr. Reiman, Dr. Tariot and their team in this innovative clinical trial aimed at preventing the onset and progression of this devastating disease.”

The research is intended to complement API’s initial trial, which is primarily focused in Colombia and involves about 300 people from an extended family with a rare genetic mutation that typically triggers Alzheimer’s symptoms around age 45. That work also is focusing on an anti-amyloid therapy and its potential in slowing or blocking the disease while preserving cognitive abilities. The investigation, including a smaller U.S. companion study, dovetails with prevention trials that have been planned or started by other research groups during the past 16 months.
“We are now looking at potential treatments to prevent both the early and late onset forms of the disease,” said Dr. Pierre N. Tariot, BAI Director. “This kind of comprehensive approach could prove the tipping point in our long, arduous effort to find a way to end this devastating disease.”

The new trial will draw participants mainly from the Alzheimer’s Prevention Registry (www.endALZnow.org), an online community of people who are committed to helping in the fight against Alzheimer’s. The Registry provides regular updates on the latest scientific advances, as well as information on overall brain health. To overcome one of the biggest obstacles to clinical research, the Registry supports enrollment in a variety of Alzheimer’s prevention studies within members’ communities.

Alzheimer’s is a debilitating and incurable disease that affects more than 5.2 million Americans, with a new diagnosis every 68 seconds. Without the discovery of successful prevention therapies, the number of U.S. cases is projected to nearly triple by 2050.

alzheimers

NIH grants Banner Alzheimer's Institute $33M

In collaboration with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Banner Alzheimer’s Institute (BAI) announces a major prevention trial to evaluate a treatment in cognitively healthy older adults at the highest known genetic risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease at older ages. An NIH grant, expected to total $33.2 million, will support this research.

The study is part of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Initiative (API), an international collaboration led by BAI to accelerate the evaluation of promising but unproven prevention therapies. It will test an anti-amyloid treatment in about 650 adults, ages 60-75, who have two copies of the apolipoprotein E (APOE4) gene, the major genetic risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer’s. None of the participants will have impairments in memory or thinking at the time they enter the study.

“Once again, we are extremely grateful to the NIH for the opportunity to help accelerate the evaluation of treatments to prevent the clinical onset of Alzheimer’s and find ones that work as soon as possible,” said Dr. Eric M. Reiman, BAI Executive Director. “This trial will allow us to extend our work to individuals at greatest risk at older ages.”

The randomized, placebo-controlled trial, which will take place at BAI and other U.S. sites, will test the treatment’s ability to stave off the memory and thinking declines associated with Alzheimer’s. It will also assess the treatment’s effects on different brain imaging and cerebrospinal fluid measurements of the disease. The specific compound to be evaluated has not been decided.

The trial will test what is often called the amyloid hypothesis, which suggests that accumulation of the protein amyloid in the brain plays a key role in the disease’s progression.  Major funding from philanthropy and industry will also support the trial, and its leaders expect to provide data and biological samples to the research community after the trial’s conclusion to help in the scientific fight against Alzheimer’s.
Individuals in the study will learn their APOE4 status. To help them prepare for this information, BAI has convened an expert committee to develop a comprehensive genetic testing and disclosure plan and to assess the impact of this disclosure during the trial.
“Under the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease, our goal is to prevent and effectively treat the disorder by 2025,” said Dr. Neil Buckholtz, of the National Institute on Aging, which leads Alzheimer’s research at the National Institutes of Health.  “We are delighted to support Dr. Reiman, Dr. Tariot and their team in this innovative clinical trial aimed at preventing the onset and progression of this devastating disease.”

The research is intended to complement API’s initial trial, which is primarily focused in Colombia and involves about 300 people from an extended family with a rare genetic mutation that typically triggers Alzheimer’s symptoms around age 45. That work also is focusing on an anti-amyloid therapy and its potential in slowing or blocking the disease while preserving cognitive abilities. The investigation, including a smaller U.S. companion study, dovetails with prevention trials that have been planned or started by other research groups during the past 16 months.
“We are now looking at potential treatments to prevent both the early and late onset forms of the disease,” said Dr. Pierre N. Tariot, BAI Director. “This kind of comprehensive approach could prove the tipping point in our long, arduous effort to find a way to end this devastating disease.”

The new trial will draw participants mainly from the Alzheimer’s Prevention Registry (www.endALZnow.org), an online community of people who are committed to helping in the fight against Alzheimer’s. The Registry provides regular updates on the latest scientific advances, as well as information on overall brain health. To overcome one of the biggest obstacles to clinical research, the Registry supports enrollment in a variety of Alzheimer’s prevention studies within members’ communities.

Alzheimer’s is a debilitating and incurable disease that affects more than 5.2 million Americans, with a new diagnosis every 68 seconds. Without the discovery of successful prevention therapies, the number of U.S. cases is projected to nearly triple by 2050.

Dr. Oddo

New Researcher Joins Banner Sun Health Institute

Dr. Salvatore Oddo, a leader in the development of genetically-engineered mouse models and their use in the study of Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders, will join the research team at the Banner Sun Health Research Institute (BSHRI) as a Senior Scientist and as an Associate Professor in the Department of Basic Medical Sciences at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix. Oddo comes to Arizona from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, where he served as an assistant professor in the physiology department. He starts at BSHRI on July 1.

Oddo and his colleagues continue to develop genetically-modified mouse models and study them in the effort to clarify some of the molecular and cellular disease mechanisms responsible for Alzheimer’s disease, to discover new treatments and to help test some of the treatments that are being considered for evaluation in clinical trials. Using the “triple transgenic mouse model” that he and his colleagues first developed at the University of California, Irvine, they have already made a number of pioneering contributions to the field.

His arrival marks the first of several joint recruitments that are planned between Banner and the medical college to advance the scientific fight against Alzheimer’s disease. It also provides an opportunity to expand the resources and collaborations involved in the Arizona Alzheimer’s Consortium, the nation’s leading model of statewide collaboration in Alzheimer’s research. While Oddo’s lab will be based at BSHRI, he will work closely with his new colleagues in the medical college and other organizations in the Consortium.

“I am extremely proud to become part of a fantastic Alzheimer’s disease research team and to establish my laboratory at the Banner Sun Health Research Institute,” Oddo said. “I look forward to developing new and stimulating collaborations with the faculty to identify new therapeutic targets for this terrible disorder.”

Oddo, who earned his undergraduate degree in molecular biology from the University of Catania, Italy and his graduate degree in Neurobiology of Learning and Memory from the University of California, Irvine, has served as an assistant researcher at the University of California Irvine’s department of neurobiology and behavior. He is moving from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio where currently he is an assistant professor in the department of physiology.

“This is the first and critical step in what will be an extremely robust partnership between the Banner Sun Health Research Institute and our college,” said Stuart D. Flynn, MD, dean of the UA College of Medicine – Phoenix. “Dr. Oddo is playing an important role in the research of Alzheimer’s disease, of critical importance as we address an aging population in Arizona and beyond.”

“We are pleased to welcome someone with Dr. Oddo’s scientific caliber and extraordinary productivity,” said Marwan Sabbagh, Director of the Banner Sun Health Research Institute. “Dr. Oddo is a valuable addition to what is already a world-class team. We look forward to work ahead.”

prevention trial - brain scan images

TGen scientist launches innovative online research project

A scientific researcher at Phoenix-based Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) has launched a first-of-its-kind online memory test to help better understand human cognition and how it might relate to Alzheimer’s disease and other brain disorders.

Dubbed “MindCrowd”, the study seeks to attract 1 million individuals, aged 18 to 80, willing to complete the 10-minute online memory test at mindcrowd.org. Researchers will use the test results to build a base of data for further study on how cognition and memory changes as people age.

Eventually, the researchers want to leverage this newly-gained biological insight into therapeutic application — treatment. The hope is for the online test to go viral with friends, families and colleagues challenging one another to take the test and compare the results.

MindCrowd is the brainchild of TGen Associate Professor Dr. Matt Huentelman who believes understanding how the brain works in healthy individuals will foster the development of new medicines and therapies for those with brain disorders. Dr. Huentelman’s TGen lab studies the genomics of human neurological traits and diseases with a specific focus on learning, memory and Alzheimer’s.

“MindCrowd is the first research project of its kind,” said Huentelman, an expert in genomics as it relates to memory. “By harnessing the power of the Internet, we can study a million – or more – individuals to help bring us closer to a cure for Alzheimer’s disease and other brain disorders. Combining our knowledge of human genetics and neuroscience with an online research study like MindCrowd is a revolutionary approach to understanding our differences in brain performance and how it may influence risk for disease. We expect to add significantly to our understanding of cognition and how genetic factors impact our memory as we age.”

The MindCrowd project has two phases: Phase I involves memory testing of 1 million or more study participants. Following an in-depth analysis of Phase I test results, researchers will then solicit a subset of Phase I participants willing to donate a DNA saliva sample and undergo an additional round of online testing.

Participation is encouraged from a broad range of ages, backgrounds and cognitive abilities. Those taking the test are free to remain anonymous, although it is encouraged that people share basic data to help the project succeed. The test does not predict or diagnose any condition, rather it provides data on one type of memory and how these processes change as people age and have varied life experiences.

MindCrowd is a collaborative effort among leading scientific research institutions and organizations including TGen, the University of Arizona, Banner Alzheimer’s Prevention Initiative and others.

Visit www.mindcrowd.org to take the test.

medical.research

BIO5-TGen collaboration targets Alzheimer’s disease

BIO5 Oro Valley today announced a collaboration with the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) to develop new therapies for the treatment of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.

BIO5 Oro Valley co-Director and University of Arizona College of Pharmacy medicinal chemist Dr. Christopher Hulme’s collaborative effort with TGen Assistant Professor Dr. Travis Dunckley will focus on the development of novel, small molecule inhibitors of dual-specificity tyrosine phosphorylation-regulated kinase 1A (DYRK1A). Upregulation of this kinase is implicated in promoting memory deficits associated with Down syndrome and neurodegenerative pathologies, particularly Alzheimer’s disease.

“DYRK1A is a well-validated, recently discovered target, ready for translational efforts to deliver an oral medication to patients suffering from this insidious disease,” said Dr. Hulme. “Indeed, coupled with the advanced small molecules in-hand that target DYRK1A, further efforts are underway that will broaden our therapeutic presence in the Alzheimer’s arena to other Arizona-based biological discoveries.”

Statistics from the National Institutes of Health indicate that 5.1 million older Americans – or 1-in-8 – suffer from Alzheimer’s, which makes it the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and the only cause of death among the top 10 in the United States that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed. Estimated to effect 45 million people worldwide by 2020, dementia is currently a leading, major unmet medical need and a costly burden on public health. Seventy percent of these cases have been attributed to Alzheimer’s, a neurodegenerative pathology characterized by a progressive decline in cognitive functions.

“This collaborative partnership is a critical step in advancing discoveries of the role DYRK1A plays to developing therapeutics that could alter the course of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Dunckley.

Drs. Hulme and Dunckley will focus on providing a significant alternative to common approaches that focus on small molecules that inhibit the production of neurotoxic fragments of amyloid proteins and antibody immunization approaches targeting the build up of these fragments.

The joint effort will explore the decrease of DYRK1A activity in the brain with proprietary small-molecule inhibitors. This approach could lead to new therapeutic strategies to alleviate cognitive deficits associated with Alzheimer’s and Down syndrome.

pharmaceuticals

Arizona bioscience job growth outpaces nation

Arizona’s bioscience sector added jobs at nearly four times the national rate over the past decade and experienced double-digit job growth during the economic recovery, a new report shows.

Since Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap was launched in 2002, Arizona’s bioscience jobs have increased by 45 percent to 99,018 in 2011. Nationally, the growth rate during this time was 12 percent. While hospitals dominate Arizona’s bioscience jobs, the state’s non-hospital subsectors grew 14 percent in 2011 alone.  During the economic recovery years of 2009-11, the state’s bioscience jobs increased 11 percent while there was no gain across the state’s private sector.

The new performance analysis of Arizona’s bioscience sector, commissioned by the Flinn Foundation, also found that the number of bioscience establishments in Arizona continues to grow faster than the national average and bioscience wages in the state are outpacing those in other private-sector industries.

The 10th-annual study, released Feb. 5 by the Battelle Technology Partnership Practice, did reveal funding challenges for the state.  In 2012, Arizona fell to its lowest venture capital investment level since 2009 and suffered a drop in National Institutes of Health funding while the top-10 funded states advanced.

“Arizona’s bioscience sector continues to significantly outperform the nation in terms of job and establishment growth and has made impressive gains in building a more concentrated industry base,” said Walter Plosila, senior advisor to the Battelle Technology Partnership Practice.  “However, more attention must be paid to academic research performance and venture capital investment to continue the trend in years to come.”

Plosila added that progress has been made over the past decade on all 19 actions recommended by Battelle in 2002, including substantial progress on nine.

The Roadmap was launched in 2002 as a long-range plan to make the state’s bioscience sector globally competitive. The Roadmap was commissioned by the Phoenix-based Flinn Foundation, which committed to 10 years of major funding of Arizona biosciences and formed a network of committees involving statewide experts to implement its recommendations.

There was also a major increase in bioscience establishments, rising 31 percent since 2002 to 892 firms, which is above the national growth rate of 23 percent.

Bioscience jobs in Arizona pay an average salary of $56,328, or 28 percent higher than the $44,098 for all private-sector industries. Since 2002, bioscience salaries have increased 44 percent.

“After 10 years, Arizona has carved a niche in the highly lucrative and competitive biosciences field,” said Martin Shultz, chair of Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap Steering Committee. “We’re one of the nation’s top emerging bioscience states, and our growth in high-wage jobs continued during both good economic times and bad.”

In terms of research dollars, NIH funding in 2012 was $174 million, or 19 percent greater, than the 2002 figure. This is a decrease from $184 million in 2011. While NIH funding, the gold standard for biomedical research funding, did increase slightly faster than the national average of 18 percent over the past decade, Arizona is no longer meeting its goal of obtaining funding at a growth rate higher than the top-10 funded states. In addition, its share of the funding pool remains nearly the same as it was in 2002.

The latest data also shows:
•    The largest non-hospital bioscience subsector continues to be research, testing and medical laboratories. This group now boasts about 8,900 workers across 466 establishments, roughly a 60 percent increase in both employees and firms since 2002. The other subsectors are drugs, pharmaceuticals and diagnostics; hospitals; medical devices and equipment; and agricultural feedstock and chemicals.
•    Venture capital investment was $22 million in 2012, which is the lowest figure since 2009. This was a drop of 68 percent from 2011, compared with a national decline of 49 percent.
•    Bioscience-related academic research and development expenditures at Arizona’s universities reached a record $452 million in 2011, a 55 percent increase since 2002. Arizona’s growth had outpaced the nation until 2009, but now trails the overall U.S. growth rate of 74 percent.
•    Arizona universities spun out seven bioscience companies in 2012. University discoveries have now led to 67 new bioscience startups since 2002 as well as 180 bioscience patents.

There were a number of major developments in 2012 that showed the collaborative nature of Arizona biosciences, including the completion of major projects, the approval of future pursuits, and an emphasis on education.

The University of Arizona opened its new Health Sciences Education Building on the Phoenix Biomedical Campus that enabled the UA College of Medicine-Phoenix to increase enrollment and for Northern Arizona University to begin Phoenix-based physician assistant and physical therapy programs. In addition, final approval was granted by the Arizona Board of Regents for the UA Cancer Center-Phoenix to be built on the same campus in partnership with St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center.

A number of incubators and accelerators opened or expanded with more in the planning stages. BioInspire, an incubator for medical-device startups, opened in Peoria; GateWay Community College in Phoenix opened the Center for Entrepreneurial Innovation; the Arizona Center for Innovation at the UA Science and Technology Park in Tucson opened upgraded facilities and launched new programming; Flagstaff received funding for a planned accelerator; and the statewide Arizona Furnace accelerator began awarding seed money and access to incubation space.

Among other major developments, the inaugural Arizona SciTech Festival attracted 200,000 participants from across the state during February and March 2012, making it one of the largest in the nation; Banner Alzheimer’s Institute launched a $100 million trial to prevent or delay Alzheimer’s disease; a new skin-cancer drug first tested by Translational Genomics Research Institute and Scottsdale Healthcare received expedited approval from the Food and Drug Administration; Arizona State University began leading the first national algae biofuel testbed; Mayo Clinic announced plans for a new cancer center on its north Phoenix campus; and Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center in Gilbert announced a $63 million expansion.

On Dec. 4, 2012, the Flinn Foundation and bioscience leaders from across Arizona came together at the Arizona Biltmore to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the launching of Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap. The Foundation announced it has committed to continue funding Arizona biosciences and coordinating the Roadmap as it enters its next chapter.

“We recognize this is a long-term pursuit,” said Jack Jewett, president and CEO of the Flinn Foundation. “We will continue to strive to improve the lives of Arizonans today and tomorrow through new medical discoveries, access to clinical trials and the recruitment of top researchers, while also attracting high-wage jobs that will strengthen Arizona’s economy.”

The Flinn Foundation is a Phoenix-based, private, nonprofit philanthropic endowment. It was established by Dr. and Mrs. Robert S. Flinn in 1965 with the mission of improving the quality of life in Arizona to benefit future generations. The nonprofit philanthropy supports the advancement of Arizona’s bioscience sector, the Flinn Scholars program, arts and culture, and the Arizona Center for Civic Leadership.

banner alzheimers foundation - brain research

Banner Alzheimer’s Institute to open $16.3M Imaging Center

The opening of a $16.3 million state-of-the-art Imaging Center further cements the internationally-recognized work occurring at Banner Alzheimer’s Institute (BAI) and advances statewide collaboration in Alzheimer’s disease and other neuroscientific, cardiology and oncology research.

The Imaging Center, located at BAI’s campus in Phoenix, was made possible by $9.2 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health and $7.1 million in philanthropic support from individuals, corporations and foundations. The center, which opens later this spring, will provide a shared scientific resource for researchers throughout the state and it will complement the scientific strengths of its partnering institutions.

The 18,000-square-foot facility features state-of-the-art imaging equipment including positron emission tomography (PET), CT and MRI technology. In addition, a cy*clotron and radiochemistry lab will allow the production of radiotracers to support PET studies across Arizona in the areas of neurology, oncology and cardiology. Radiotracers are used by PET researchers to study a range of biochemical and physiological processes in the brain and body.  In addition, BAI’s computational analysis laboratory will continue to develop, test, and use software to analyze PET and MRI images with unprecedented power.

“We are grateful to the National Institutes of Health, and extraordinary charitable contributions facilitated by Banner Alzheimer’s Foundation for the state-of-the-art imaging resources needed to make potentially transformational differences in the scientific fight against Alzheimer’s disease, advance cancer research, unravel mysteries of the human mind and brain and support important biomedical research collaborations throughout the state,” said Dr. Eric Reiman, CEO of Banner Research, BAI executive director, and director of the Arizona Alzheimer’s Consortium.

The new Imaging Center will help BAI researchers in the effort to find treatments to ending Alzheimer’s before it impacts another generation. It will also add to the arsenal of research tools used by researchers in the Arizona Alzheimer’s Consortium, a leading model of statewide collaboration in biomedical research.

“Members of Arizona Alzheimer’s Consortium played a huge role in our effort to secure funding for the Imaging Center and will continue to be key participants in our imaging research,” added Reiman.

The Arizona Alzheimer’s Consortium includes Arizona State University, Barrow Neurological Institute, Mayo Clinic Arizona, Banner Sun Health Research Institute, Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), University of Arizona and Banner Alzheimer’s Institute.

In addition to the new Imaging Center, Dr. Reiman, Dr. Pierre Tariot, and their colleagues have developed the international Alzheimer’s Prevention Initiative (API) to find effective treatments to prevent Alzheimer’s disease as quickly as possible. With its first prevention trial launching later this year, API will begin to evaluate the most promising therapies and do so as quickly as possible. The API is intended to evaluate promising prevention therapies in individuals at the highest genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease, help set the stage for the field to rapidly evaluate the range of promising therapies and find ones that work as quickly as possible.

A key component of API is its national Alzheimer’s Prevention Registry. People who are passionate about combatting the disease are encouraged to sign-up at https://registry.endalznow.org/. They will receive regular updates about the latest advances in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease, the promotion of brain health, and opportunities to participate in prevention studies.