The National Institute on Aging (NIA) has awarded a highly coveted Alzheimer's Disease Research Center designation to Emory University, along with $7.4 million in research funding over the next five years. The Emory Alzheimer's Disease Research Center (ADC) is the only NIA-funded center in Georgia and one of only 32 in the U.S. to attain the top status. "The grant and special designation set Emory apart from other Alzheimer's disease programs," says Allan Levey, MD, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Neurology, Emory University School of Medicine, and a long-time Alzheimer's disease (AD) clinician and researcher.
Comparable to the National Cancer Institute's Comprehensive Cancer Center designation for excellence in cancer research and community outreach programs, the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center P-50 grant signifies the highest status an institution can receive in AD research and care.
"This funding says a lot about the credibility of our research programs at Emory," says Stuart Zola, PhD, associate director of the Emory ADC and director of the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory. Dr. Zola is also co-PI of the P-50 grant. "We will now be granted extra resources to conduct research to better understand Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative diseases."
Instrumental in acquiring this funding is Emory's partnership with the Georgia Research Alliance (GRA), a private corporation set up to foster economic development in Georgia, which is committing $700,000 in matching support annually for five years. The organization will also fund a GRA Eminent Scholar position for the Emory ADC.
"Members from the GRA went to the National Institutes of Health in support of us receiving the NIA Alzheimer's Disease Research Center status," Dr. Levey explains. "The GRA's backing is extremely important, enabling Emory and other recipients of its support to be at the forefront of research."
The NIA's special designation requires Emory to support five mandatory core components of its Alzheimer's program: an Administrative Core to provide overall direction (led by Dr. Levey); a Clinical Core to recruit participants and provide data on patients with AD and other memory problems, as well as healthy people in control groups to facilitate clinical, genetic and pathological studies (led by Donald Bliwise, PhD, professor of neurology at Emory); a Data Management and Statistics Core to provide management of the database and biostatistical consulting to the researchers (led by Kyle Steenland, PhD, professor in the Departments of Epidemiology and Occupational Health, Rollins School of Public Health at Emory); an Education Core to educate patients, families and caregivers about AD and to educate general and specialty physicians as well as other health care professionals (led by Patricia Clark, PhD, RN, assistant professor in the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing at Emory); and finally, a Neuropathology Core to coordinate autopsies and diagnostic assessment of brains following death (led by Marla Gearing, PhD, assistant professor of pathology at Emory, along with Bernardino Ghetti, MD, professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, Indiana University). Emory will work in collaboration with the Indiana ADC on this particular core.
Three research projects, from basic to clinical research, will accompany the grant.
Faculty in the School of Medicine (Departments of Neurology, Pathology, Psychiatry, Genetics), the Rollins School of Public Health, the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing and Yerkes National Primate Research Center participate in the ADC.
"The NIA award is a clear example of how collaborating across the university -- from basic science research, to testing therapies in animals, to clinical trial in humans -- truly makes a difference," says Dr. Zola.