Alzheimer’s is a complicated disease and the battle to eradicate it appears to be an extremely difficult one. According to statistics from the Alzheimer’s Association, deaths from the disease have increased 123 percent since 2000 and continue to rise.
In an effort to conduct further research into pinpointing its singular cause, the University of Texas at San Antonio
(UTSA) College of Sciences recently established a research contest dubbed the Oskar Fischer Project. It will pit the world’s brightest medical researchers against one another in a competition aimed at coming up with a simple explanation for the cause of Alzheimer’s disease.
Austin-based business leader James Truchard gifted the project with $5 million, which will be awarded as prizes to the top three researchers with the most viable explanations. There will be a grand prize of $2 million, two second- place prizes of $500,000 each and four third-place prizes of $250,000 each. Collectively, the monetary awards are the world’s largest of their kind.
“The Oskar Fischer Project will take a new systems approach to the research on Alzheimer’s, building on the work Oskar Fischer started over a century ago,” said George Perry, chief scientist of the UTSA Brain Health Consortium.
“Jim Truchard’s generous gift will create an international forum to assess that work and bring forward an
explanation that will advance society’s understanding of the disease.”
Oskar Fischer was a Jewish pioneer in neuroscience who lived from 1876 to 1942. He studied dementia and in 1900, began working at Charles University in Prague in the Czech Republic. Fischer’s research led to the identification of senile plaques (then called neuritic plaques), the signature lesions of Alzheimer’s disease.
He hypothesized that the plaques were associated with presbyophrenia, which was then characterized as a form of senile dementia marked by memory loss, memory distortions and disorientation.
Fischer remained at Charles University until he was removed in 1939. Two years later, he was sent to
Theresienstadt in Terezín, a way station for Auschwitz and Treblinka. He died in 1942, unable to survive the harsh conditions of the Nazi concentration camp.
“A century has passed since Oskar Fischer’s seminal work, and tens of billions have been spent around the world on research and potential cures,” said Truchard. “Over 130,000 research papers have been published and yet no definitive explanation and cure for Alzheimer’s has been found.
“We need to look at Alzheimer’s as a big complex puzzle with a missing piece. We need a brilliant individual who can take all of the pieces and consider what each offers, and then develop one explanation that fits because it pulls all of the pieces together and makes the puzzle whole.”
According to the World Alzheimer Report 2018 by Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI), an estimated 50
million people worldwide are living with dementia at a cost of $1 trillion to the global economy. That population is
expected to more than triple by the year 2050, according to ADI.
“I truly believe that Alzheimer’s disease is multifaceted; it’s about lifestyle, heredity and brain regression,” said
Truchard. “It’s important to look at all possible solutions. This contest will bring together the world’s best minds to consider the entire story.”
The Alzheimer's Association leads the way to end Alzheimer's and all other dementia — by accelerating global research, driving risk reduction and early detection, and maximizing quality care and support. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer's and all other dementia.™ For more information, visit www.alz.org or call the 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900.