Center for Comprehensive Alzheimer’s Disease Research
In 2011, the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation helped launch the Center for Comprehensive Alzheimer’s Disease Research at Gladstone with a generous $6M lead gift. This investment is helping Gladstone scientists more quickly develop therapies for those suffering from Alzheimer’s, or who are at increased risk of getting the disease. Currently, the field lacks effective medications to prevent, halt or reverse this devastating illness.
The Center taps Gladstone’s unique expertise in neurodegenerative diseases. In recent years, for instance, Gladstone scientists demonstrated how amyloid proteins that build up in brains of Alzheimer patients disrupt cognitive processes such as memory—and how this process may be prevented and reversed. We have also established one of the world’s leading drug-development programs targeting Alzheimer’s main genetic risk factor. Last year, Gladstone scientists announced a promising new drug candidate that prevents memory deficits and the loss of synaptic connections between brain cells—key features of Alzheimer’s—in mice modeling the disease.
Since the establishment of this Center, some of its most promising research efforts have been leveraged into collaborations with leading pharmaceutical companies, including Bristol-Myers Squibb and Takeda Pharmaceuticals.
Internal collaborations between this Center and the Gladstone Center for Translational Research will allow scientists to build on these successes and to identify additional drug targets and drug candidates that can be transferred to outside entities for further development and delivery to patients.
Hellman Family Foundation Alzheimer's Research Program
Thanks to a 2011 gift of $1 million from the Hellman Family Foundation, Gladstone launched the Hellman Family Foundation Alzheimer’s Research Program to help spur the development of medications for this devastating illness. Headed by Gladstone Senior Investigator, Steve Finkbeiner, MD, PhD, the Program encourages industry interest in creating drugs for the millions around the world with Alzheimer’s disease. The Hellman Family Foundation Alzheimer’s Research Program at Gladstone, which operates in collaboration with the Memory and Aging Center at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), leverages infrastructure, resources and research from Gladstone’s existing Taube-Koret Center for Huntington’s Disease Research.
The Program plays a vital role in addressing what is known as the valley of death among those in the biomedical industry. This is the barren territory that few traverse successfully, as many research institutions fail to move a promising biomedical discovery through all the rigorous tests required before a drug company wants to transform the discovery into a pharmaceutical product to help patients. To help Gladstone discoveries successfully cross through the valley of death, the Hellman Family Foundation Alzheimer’s Research Program subsidizes the myriad of early-stage, de-risking tests necessary to make a drug candidate more attractive to pharmaceutical-industry partners, such as tests that reveal at what concentrations a drug stops being therapeutic and instead becomes toxic. Further, the program’s partnership with UCSF’s Memory and Aging Center improves our capacity to do clinical trials.
Center for In Vivo Imaging Research (CIVIR)
In 2010, the Gladstone Institutes established the Center for In Vivo Imaging Research (CIVIR). CIVIR’s mission is to develop technologies to investigate the dynamic interactions between the immune, vascular and nervous systems as a way to better understand the origins and progress of neurological diseases. We plan to use these techniques to design and test effective treatments for these diseases.
Katerina Akassoglou, PhD, is CIVIR’s founding Director while Dimitrios Davalos, PhD, serves as Associate Director. Different funding sources contributed to the establishment of CIVIR, including the international pharmaceutical company H. Lundbeck A/S, the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation and an anonymous donor.
Taube/Koret Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research
In 2009, Gladstone joined forces with Taube Philanthropies and the Koret Foundation to found the Taube/Koret Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research. The Center focuses on new solutions for overcoming crippling neurodegenerative disorders such as Huntington's Disease, which robs patients of their independence by causing things such as short-term memory loss, involuntary movements of the head and trouble with swallowing. Eventually, fatalities occur from complications such as choking or heart failure. No approved drugs exist to even slow the progression of this relentless disorder.
Gladstone’s Taube/Koret Center plays a vital role in decreasing such human suffering by addressing what is known in the biomedical industry as the valley of death. This is the barren territory that few traverse successfully, as many research institutions fail to move a promising biomedical discovery through all the rigorous tests required before a drug company wants to transform the discovery into a pharmaceutical product to help patients. To help Gladstone discoveries successfully cross through the valley, the Taube/Koret Center subsidizes the myriad of early-stage, de-risking tests necessary to make a drug candidate more attractive to pharmaceutical-industry partners, such as tests that reveal at what concentrations a therapeutic compound becomes efficacious—or toxic.
The Center is also an example of how Gladstone leverages donations for maximum benefit to patients. Using the inaugural $3.6 million gift from the Koret Foundation and Taube Philanthropies, Gladstone has since attracted an additional $22 million from other sources to advance the Taube/Koret Center's research.