In aggressive pursuit of its vision of a world without Alzheimer’s and all other dementia, the Association once again made its largest-ever research investment in FY20, granting more than $47 million to 139 new scientific investigations. Investments included awards to 119 projects funded through the International Research Grant Program, representing proposals ranked highest by a peer-reviewed process in a highly competitive field of 406 applications submitted from 865 letters of intent. As the world’s leading nonprofit funder of Alzheimer’s and dementia research, the Association is currently investing $208 million in more than 590 active best-of-field projects in 31 countries.
The Association paused funding programs in March 2020 after hearing significant challenges from potential applicants in submitting their necessary documents for consideration as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Association continues to be in touch with multiple institutions and research facility leaders around the globe, and understands that the impact of COVID-19 includes the suspension of research, impact on patient care, rotating schedule of lab staff, halting of wet lab work and more. The Association found new ways to work with and engage the research community, including a focus on increasing submissions of papers to our journals and attendance at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC).
Founded in 2012 by Michaela “Mikey” Hoag, the Alzheimer’s Association Part the Cloud innovative grant funding program is a movement to accelerate scientific progress in Alzheimer's research. In early FY20, Part the Cloud awarded five grants totaling $3.75 million to accelerate the translation of findings from the laboratory through clinical trials and into possible therapies. Currently, Part the Cloud is funding 55 projects, including some of the most promising clinical phase studies in the field.
In FY20, Bill Gates and Part the Cloud partnered to accelerate research and investigate specific brain changes that may contribute to the development of Alzheimer's and dementia. Beginning in FY20, this partnership funds 14 high-risk, high-reward research projects, selected from 87 applications from 17 countries, aimed at exploring areas of neurodegeneration, neuroinflammation and immune responses. Additional grants will be awarded in FY21.
Presented to investigators who have contributed significantly to the field of Alzheimer’s and dementia research, the Alzheimer’s Association Zenith Fellows Awards are among the most prestigious dementia research grants in the world. Part of the International Research Grant Program, these annual awards are made possible by members of the Alzheimer’s Association Zenith Society, whose philanthropic gifts have funded over $41 million in grants to more than 135 leading scientists. FY20 awardees were Dr. Paul Thompson, University of Southern California, Los Angeles; Dr. Ted Dawson, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; and Dr. Susan Bookheimer, University of California, Los Angeles.
The Association, the Global Brain Health Institute and the Alzheimer’s Society united to address global challenges with access to care, stigma, brain health risk factors and other key issues through a competitive funding program for emerging leaders in brain health and dementia. The Pilot Awards for Global Health Leaders are driving projects, activities and research to address disparities in dementia diagnosis, treatment and care for vulnerable populations and their families. Researchers representing 14 countries were honored with 27 awards totaling approximately $675,000.
The Association-led U.S. POINTER study is a first-of-its-kind, $35 million, two-year clinical trial to evaluate whether lifestyle interventions that simultaneously target many risk factors can reduce risk of cognitive decline in older adults. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. POINTER was paused in March 2020 to ensure the safety of participants and staff and to protect the scientific integrity of the study, but was restarted in July. In July 2019, the U.S. National Institute on Aging awarded the University of California, Berkeley, a five-year grant expected to total $47 million for the U.S. POINTER Neuroimaging Ancillary Study to capture PET and MRI images of U.S. POINTER participants.
The Association and the Rainwater Charitable Foundation’s Tau Consortium completed a second year of the Tau Pipeline Enabling Program, providing nearly $4 million in funding to eight research groups. T-PEP II is actively supporting drug discovery and development for possible therapies to remove or mitigate toxic tau-related impact on the underlying biology.
The Association has provided significant funding to the Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer Network (DIAN) to build the infrastructure for its Trials Unit (TU). Researchers from DIAN-TU at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and their pharmaceutical industry partners announced negative Phase 2/3 clinical trial results of gantenerumab and solanezumab for slowing the rate of cognitive impairment and the return of disease-related measures to non-disease levels in individuals with dominantly inherited Alzheimer's. The Association remains committed to partnering with innovative studies like DIAN-TU and will continue to accelerate all avenues of research that lead to better detection, prevention and treatment of Alzheimer's and all other dementia. With essential support from the Association, DIAN-TU researchers have launched an open-label extension study to explore the full potential of this experimental drug therapy.
The Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) is the largest and most influential international meeting dedicated to advancing dementia science. A record-breaking attendance of nearly 6,000, including researchers, clinicians, investigators, care providers and students from almost 60 countries, convened at AAIC 2019 in Los Angeles. Important research developments presented at the conference included news on cognitive decline in the LGBT community; the impact of sleep medications on dementia risk; advances in the search for blood markers for Alzheimer's; and the role of infectious agents in the development of the disease.
As the Association continues to grow its international footprint, it convened the AAIC Satellite Symposium in September 2019 in Sydney, Australia, with over 330 attendees representing 14 countries. Australian scientists joined with other leaders in the field to focus on translation of research into new interventions, including novel biomarkers and therapeutics.
Nearly 600 researchers from 21 countries attended Tau2020, a first-ever convening of experts and innovators in tauopathy research hosted by the Alzheimer’s Association, the Rainwater Charitable Foundation and CurePSP. Global leaders in the field unveiled new discoveries and discussed findings related to tau brain scans, genetics, therapeutic approaches and more. Through our funding, the Association has played a key role in advancing the understanding of tau’s role in Alzheimer’s, developing tools for early detection and advancing key funding programs to develop novel therapeutic approaches directed toward tau-related biology.
TrialMatch®, the Association's clinical studies matching service, continues to engage constituents in research by making information about clinical trials easy to access and understand. Since its inception, TrialMatch has provided customized lists of treatment, diagnostic, prevention, quality-of-life and online studies to more than 370,000 users. In FY20, the TrialMatch database grew to include international studies and recruitment sites and now holds trial summaries for more than 600 clinical trials, a 50% increase over the previous year. The service was also renovated to better meet users’ needs, decrease barriers to participation and increase access. Additionally, TrialMatch continues to support recruitment activities for U.S. POINTER and LEADS, Association-led clinical studies of strategic importance to the Association's mission.
Funded by the Alzheimer’s Association, GAAIN is the first online platform to provide free, instant access to data normally restricted to a handful of Alzheimer’s researchers, uniting a diverse and geographically distributed network of partners to foster discovery, collaboration and sharing. With close to 30,000 unique data attributes linking together nearly 600,000 participants’ data, GAAIN serves as a one-of-a-kind resource for the global Alzheimer’s and dementia community. In FY20, over 5,700 users from 89 countries and every continent utilized GAAIN.
The Alzheimer’s Association Research Roundtable engages scientists from the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, diagnostics, imaging and cognitive testing industries worldwide in a precompetitive platform to discuss key areas in Alzheimer’s science, with a mission of advancing the research, development and management of new treatments for the disease. The fall 2019 meeting, “Building Clinically Relevant Outcomes Across the Alzheimer's Disease Spectrum,” focused on reviewing approaches to defining clinical meaningfulness from the perspectives of people living Alzheimer’s and care partners, clinicians, regulators, health economists and public policy makers. The spring 2020 meeting was held virtually in December 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Alzheimer’s Association International Society to Advance Alzheimer’s Research and Treatment (ISTAART) is the only professional society for those interested in Alzheimer’s and dementia science, including scientists, physicians and other professionals involved in the causes and treatments of Alzheimer’s and other dementias. By the end of FY20, ISTAART comprised 4,078 members, with 60% of members participating in one or more of the society’s 25 Professional Interest Areas (PIAs). PIAs are subgroups of researchers who share common scientific interests and collaborate to curate conference sessions, host webinars, and network both within and across PIAs.
Alzheimer's & Dementia®: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association is the leading peer-reviewed monthly journal in Alzheimer’s and dementia. Its impact factor — a measure of the publication’s influence in the scientific community — increased in FY20 to 17.127. To continue its growth and that of industry-leading, open-access journals Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring and Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Translational Research & Clinical Interventions, the Association launched a strategic partnership with global publisher Wiley to share the best, cutting-edge dementia research with the global scientific community and translate this research for consumption by the general public.