The executive director of the Stark Neurosciences Research Institute at the IU School of Medicine says a recently awarded $49 million grant is another step towards discovering novel therapeutics in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Bruce Lamb says the funding from the National Institute on Aging will also greatly expand the understanding of the debilitating disease for which there is no cure. Lamb says the school is fourth in the country for funding awarded by the NIA, one of the divisions of the National Institutes of Health.
The five-year grant will be used to study animal models of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease as well as perform rigorous testing of potential therapeutics in animals.
“The significance is really about trying to accelerate the therapeutic pipeline for Alzheimer’s disease, which is really the intent of this program is trying to develop models as well as do preclinical testing,” Lamb said during an interview with Business of Health reporter Kylie Veleta. “Getting therapies into animals to accelerate that process, so we can finally get therapies into people which is really what we’re all after.”
Lamb says the goal is to re-create genetic mutations in mice that are similar to those found in people with late-onset Alzheimer’s, with the hope that the work will lead to important new discoveries about Alzheimer’s and potential treatment options.
“We’ve been able to identify some new potential therapeutic targets and even some compounds…now the idea is they can start to move into the animal models. And again, hopefully in a couple of years, get them into people.”
Alzheimer’s disease robs people of their memories and impairs cognitive functions. Despite decades of research and billions of dollars in research to explore potential treatments, there is no cure. Current drugs only temporarily ease symptoms and do not slow mental decline.
IUSM says the grant is the school’s second largest in history. For the past three years, the program, known as Model Organism Development and Evaluation for Late-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease, has been among the top five NIH-funded research studies at the IU School of Medicine.
“I think we have a real opportunity right now with all of this new funding,” said Lamb.
Lamb says IU is collaborating with Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly & Co. (NYSE: ELI) and Roche Diagnostics to tackle the disease. Lily has an Alzheimer’s drug that is currently undergoing clinical trials. Roche is developing new biomarkers and diagnostics for the disease.
“We have collaborations with each of them on different components of this. And my attitude is very much we need everybody. We need all of these people plus more to really tackle this disease,” said Lamb.