The Alzheimer's Association today presented the largest single research award it has ever given to a husband and wife team at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia. Neuropathologist John Trojanowski and neurobiologist Virginia Lee will use the $1 million grant during the next 5 years to develop new tests for diagnosing Alzheimer's disease in its early stages.
Since some cases of Alzheimer's resemble other neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's, Trojanowski and Lee plan to search for ways to identify true Alzheimer's. "To get good therapies into drug trials you need to know what you're treating," says Trojanowski. He and Lee are well-known players in the Alzheimer's field, having collectively published over 100 papers on neurodegenerative disease.
The Alzheimer's Association designed the Pioneer Award with the needs of innovative scientists in mind. Unlike many other grants, the award allows researchers to save unspent funds for unanticipated opportunities that may arise. Other scientists say that the award is generous enough for academic researchers to pursue drug development projects that wouldn't otherwise be possible without corporate funding. "Therapeutics has been the domain of the biotech and pharmaceutical industry, and this could change that," says Sam Sisodia, a molecular biologist at the University of Chicago. The Alzheimer's Association will award three more $1 million Pioneer grants by June 1999.