IU School of Medicine lands $36M grant to develop Alzheimer’s disease treatments

Indiana University School of Medicine has been awarded a $36 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to use in its effort to develop treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, IU announced Tuesday.

The grant, to be paid over five years, will help the IU School of Medicine launch a drug discovery center as part of a strategic partnership with the Purdue Institute for Drug Discovery at Purdue University.

The National Institute on Aging, which is part of the NIH and is funding the program to establish such centers, said the IU-Purdue partnership makes up one of only two such multi-institution teams in the nation selected for the new federal program.

The IU-led center will initially focus on proteins, or targets, related to the brain’s immune system that may contribute to Alzheimer’s disease. IU said there is “a growing body of evidence that certain genes associated with the immune system may be linked to Alzheimer’s disease, opening a new avenue for research and drug discovery.”

Alan Palkowitz, a senior research professor at IU School of Medicine, will lead the center. Palkowitz was recruited to IU School of Medicine through the IU Precision Health Initiative in late 2018 after 28 years at Eli Lilly and Co., where he most recently served as vice president of discovery chemistry research.

The center’s co-principal investigator is Bruce Lamb, executive director of the Stark Neurosciences Research Institute.

“The challenges of finding effective medicines for Alzheimer’s disease are numerous and complex,” Palkowitz said in written comments. “It is going to require a very strong ecosystem that is enriched with scientific diversity and new collaborative models. The emergence of centers like this, which can not only perform cutting-edge science but also inform the community with results, are going to be important partners with all groups who are committed to creating breakthrough therapies.”

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia in the aging population, affecting an estimated 5.5 million Americans, about 110,000 of whom live in Indiana. The national number is projected to rise as high as 14 million by 2050. There are currently no treatments to prevent or slow progression of the disease.

All data, methods and tools generated by the NIA-funded centers will be made available to researchers from academia, not-for-profit research organizations and the biotech and pharmaceutical industry for use in drug discovery and basic biology research.

The IU-led center will likely create 15 to 20 jobs at IU and Purdue. The five-year grant began Sept. 30.

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