UCI MIND Awarded $14.4MM NIH Grant to Continue Critical Research and Education

UCI MIND, the Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders at the University of California, Irvine, has been awarded a $14.4 million grant from the National Institute on Aging, one of the National Institutes of Health, to sustain critical research and education as Orange County’s only Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. The NIA funds only 32 of these centers at major medical institutions across the U.S. that are conducting groundbreaking research to improve diagnosis, care and treatment for people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

“The U.S. is in the midst of a crisis of Alzheimer’s disease, and Orange County is at the epicenter with more residents living with dementia in our single county than in 26 other entire states,” said Dr. Joshua Grill, director of UCI MIND.

UCI MIND’s 35-year track record of innovative science – which includes 56 renowned faculty researchers from 17 department across UCI – strategically positions the institute to have a major impact on the fight against Alzheimer’s.

“Our research team brings passionate and novel cross-disciplinary approaches to try to solve this insidious disease. We collaborate with colleagues across the nation, and we provide critical resources to the community,” said Dr. Frank LaFerla, dean of the UCI School of Biological Sciences and director of the UCI Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.
This is the eighth time that UCI MIND has earned the competitive five-year award from the NIH.

“We could not continue to fund our research and education programs without this grant, and this achievement is only possible with the support of our university, donors, research participants, and community partners,” Grill said.

Nationally, nearly 6 million people are living with Alzheimer’s disease, a number projected to triple in the coming decades unless a prevention or cure is discovered. Researchers at UCI MIND plan to do exactly that. In Orange County, Alzheimer’s disease affects more than 80,000 residents and is the third leading cause of death, according to the California Department of Public Health.

“We are actively conducting dozens of laboratory and clinical research projects, with new ideas constantly evolving to try to solve this disease,” said LaFerla. “Many of these ideas, formulated by faculty researchers, are backed by community philanthropy.”

The major NIH grant funds 10 collaborative “cores,” each with a unique focus and led by a UCI faculty member. For example, UCI MIND’s Clinical Core, which conducts clinical trials of new treatments, will be led by Dr. David Sultzer, professor of psychiatry & human behavior, whose hiring was made possible by a philanthropic donation from the Grace C. Steele Endowment. He takes over for long-standing core leader Dr. Claudia Kawas.

Dr. Elizabeth Head, professor of pathology & laboratory medicine, studies Alzheimer’s disease and brain aging in individuals with Down syndrome. She will lead the Research and Education Core, which is key to increasing interest and training opportunities in Alzheimer’s research among talented young scientists and clinicians.

Dr. Craig Stark, professor of neurobiology & behavior, will lead the Biomarker Core to study brain changes in Alzheimer’s disease using cutting-edge neuroimaging techniques. These efforts were recently supported by the Henry L. Guenther Foundation.

Additional cores include the development of novel stem cell models, led by Dr. Mathew Blurton-Jones; analysis of brain changes at autopsy, led by Dr. Edwin Monuki; improvement of clinical trial design and analysis, led by Dr. Daniel Gillen; studies of the oldest-old, led by Dr. Maria Corrada; and studies of people with Down syndrome, led by Dr. Ira Lott. Unique initiatives explore racial and sex disparities, including one funded in part by Maria Shriver’s Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement to study why women get Alzheimer’s disease twice as often as men.

“We are working as rapidly as possible to address the crisis of Alzheimer’s disease,” Grill said. “To do so, we need continued support from our community, including participation in research and philanthropic funding for new ideas, new scientists, and new research equipment.”

Donations to UCI MIND to assist in funding one of the current research programs can be made by reaching out to Daniel Harper, senior director of development, at 714-369-7283 or [email protected].

To consider participating in a clinical research study, individuals can register at www.c2c.uci.edu.

Additional information about UCI MIND is available at www.mind.uci.edu