MetLife Foundation Announces Major Awards to Scientists for Research in Alzheimer’s Disease
WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Feb 23, 2007 – The winners of the MetLife Foundation Awards for Medical Research in Alzheimer’s Disease were announced in Washington, D.C. today. Awards were made at a special scientific briefing and luncheon, to David M. Holtzman, M.D. of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, for his pioneering work in molecular biology examining the early stages of Alzheimer’s, and Berislav V. Zlokovic, M.D., Ph.D. of the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, New York, for his research defining the impact that blood flow plays in Alzheimer’s disease.
Since 1986, major awards have been made to scientists who have demonstrated significant contributions to the understanding of Alzheimer’s disease. At the heart of the awards program is a strong belief in the importance of basic research, with an emphasis on providing scientists with the opportunity to liberally pursue ideas. Each of the winners will receive a $50,000 personal award, in addition to a $200,000 research award to each of their institutions, to further their research.
“Alzheimer’s is an issue of national importance. The disease is not only financially devastating to many families, but it also robs them of the person they once knew,” said C. Robert Henrikson, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of MetLife, Inc. “The impact of Alzheimer’s on families, society, and the economy is why MetLife has been committed for over 20 years to the search for a cure.”
An estimated 4.5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, a number that has more than doubled since 1980, and will continue to grow – by 2050 the number of individuals with Alzheimer’s could range from 11.3 million to 16 million. Increasing age is the greatest risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s; one in 10 individuals over 65 and nearly half of those over 85 are affected. National direct and indirect annual costs of caring for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease are at least $100 billion, according to estimates used by the Alzheimer’s Association and the National Institute on Aging. Alzheimer’s disease costs American business $61 billion a year, according to a report commissioned by the Alzheimer’s Association. Of that figure, $24.6 billion covers Alzheimer health care and $36.5 billion covers costs related to caregiving.
“The scientists we honor today are making a significant contribution to our future, by helping us better understand a disease that has an impact on so many Americans,” said Sibyl Jacobson, president, MetLife Foundation. “Their hard work and dedication give us hope for the future.”
Richard Hodes, M.D., director of the National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health, delivered the keynote speech during the luncheon. The author of more than 200 research papers and a leading immunologist, Dr. Hodes has devoted his tenure as Director of the National Institute on Aging to improving the health and quality of life for older people and their families. He is a graduate of Yale University and received his M.D. from Harvard Medical School.
The awards program began with a research briefing, where the award recipients discussed their work. The briefing was moderated by Robert N. Butler, M.D., president and chief executive officer of the International Longevity Center – USA, and Professor of Geriatrics, Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, and chair of the MetLife Foundation’s Research Committee. He is also the founding director of the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health.
About the Award for Medical Research Winners
Dr. Holtzman is the Andrew B. and Gretchen P. Jones Professor of Neurology and Molecular Biology & Pharmacology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and Head of the Department of Neurology. He is also associate director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Washington University. Dr. Holtzman and the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis were awarded a “promising work” grant from MetLife Foundation in 2002.
Dr. Holtzman and his team recently completed landmark studies in three areas of inquiry, significantly advancing our understanding of the biology of Alzheimer’s disease. The first centered on the ability of antibodies directed against amyloid-beta to decrease plaque formation in the brains of mice. Dr. Holtzman’s tests of the antibody resulted in a decrease in amyloid formation in the brain and improved memory function in mice within 24 to 72 hours. A human form of this antibody is now being tested. His second area of accomplishment has been in the search for physical traits that indicate whether a person is developing amyloid plaques and will ultimately suffer dementia. The third is in the development of novel methods of assessing the formation and clearance of amyloid-beta in the central nervous systems of both animals and humans. Dr. Holtzman has also been honored with the Potamkin Prize from the American Academy of Neurology, the MERIT award from the National Institute on Aging, and the Zenith Award from the Alzheimer’s Association.
Dr. Zlokovic, who is known internationally for his work on stroke as well as Alzheimer’s, focuses on the crucial role of blood vessels and has shown that blood circulation plays a key role in ridding the brain of the toxic amyloid beta that attacks the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. For over a decade, Dr. Zlokovic has focused his attention on the transport of amyloid beta protein in the blood that flows through the brain. He suspected that the accumulation of amyloid beta in the brain might have to do with an abnormality in a patient’s ability to clear the protein through the membrane that controls the passage of substances to and from the central nervous system.
Dr. Zlokovic and his team has identified much of the molecular machinery that allows amyloid beta to sidestep the body’s safeguards and enter the brain, and he has discovered the molecules that falter when the toxic protein accumulates in the brain. He has shown that a breakdown in these mechanisms may lead to the symptoms displayed in Alzheimer’s and other disorders associated with accumulations of amyloid-beta in the brain or blood vessels. As a result of this work, Dr. Zlokovic has demonstrated several strategies for preventing or lowering amyloid-beta accumulation and preventing reentry from the blood stream. Dr. Zlokovic is the Dean’s Professor and Professor of Neurosurgery & Neurology at the University of Rochester Medical Center. He is also director of the university’s Frank P. Smith Laboratories for Neurosurgical Research and associate chairman for Neurosurgery. He holds a MERIT award from the National Institute on Aging.
About MetLife Foundation
MetLife Foundation has supported Alzheimer’s disease research and outreach activities for more than 20 years. The Foundation has awarded more than $10 million in grants through its Awards for Medical Research in Alzheimer’s Disease program, and has also provided support to the Alzheimer’s Association for initiatives including caregiving videos, resources for the Hispanic community and the Safe Return identification program. MetLife Foundation was also the sponsor of The Forgetting, an Emmy-winning primetime PBS documentary and outreach program on the disease. For information about MetLife Foundation, please visit www.metlife.org.