To advance the study of male/female differences in Alzheimer’s disease (AD), the organizers of a neurodiscovery challenge have announced the winner of the $50,000 grand prize. The organizers—the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH) and the Geoffrey Beene Foundation—had narrowed the field of potential winners to just three. Ultimately, in a voting process that included public participation, the winner emerged: Enrico Glaab, Ph.D., a research associate at the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine, University of Luxembourg.
Dr. Glaab will receive his award, the first-ever resulting from a challenge to identify male/female differences in AD, from the Geoffrey Beene Foundation Alzheimer’s Initiative. The award will help Dr. Glaab continue his research, which focuses on age-related gene expression changes that occur in the human brain. In particular, he is studying tau-interacting ubiquitin-specific peptidase 9, a gene that shows one of the largest differences between male and female expression levels across multiple brain regions during adulthood. It is suspected of playing a role in the biochemical pathways leading to AD.
In addition to the first-place winner, a pair of second-place winners was named. All had been named preliminary winners in October. Then, to select a final winner, a voting process commenced, including online voting open to the public November 1–5, and a live vote November 7 at the Alzheimer’s Disease Summit: The Path to 2025, presented by the New York Academy of Sciences, the Global CEO Initiative on Alzheimer’s Disease, and the National Institute on Aging/NIH.
The results of the voting were so close that one of the Challenge’s sponsors, Sanofi, stepped forward and offered an additional $50,000 to fund the second-place winners, Kimberly Glass, Ph.D., and John Quackenbush, Ph.D., Harvard School of Public Health, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
Drs. Glass and Quackenbush will continue their study of sex-specific differences in AD characterized by unique alterations in cellular network structure. “Because one finalist was a female, Dr. Kimberly Glass, we felt it was important to encourage more women to go into STEM careers,” said Anne Whitaker, president North American Pharmaceuticals and CEO of Sanofi US and founding member of Women Against Alzheimer’s.
“We are delighted with the worldwide response and interest to the challenge and congratulate Dr. Glaab, Dr. Glass, and Dr. Quackenbush’s accomplishments,” said Maria Freire, Ph.D., president and executive director, FNIH, which manages the partnership for the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), a study of the progression of AD that is funded by both the National Institute on Aging/NIH and private sources.
“What better way to mobilize women than ask a question that matters to them?” said Meryl Comer, president and CEO of the Geoffrey Beene Foundation Alzheimer’s Initiative and founding partner of the 21st Century BrainTrust. “The 2013 Geoffrey Beene Global NeuroDiscovery Challenge supports and validates this research focus for our next-generation scientists that benefits both women and men.”
The 2013 Geoffrey Beene Global NeuroDiscovery Challenge invited researchers to leverage large sets of clinical data and novel analytical approaches to elucidate the causes and consequences of male/female differences in destructive physical changes in the brain, to clarify how those changes translate into progression of physical symptoms, and to determine the influence of genetics and hormones on the development of AD in both men and women.
Featured speakers at the November 7, 2013 Alzheimer’s Disease Summit included Dr. Freire; Freda Lewis Hall, executive vice president and CMO, Pfizer; Anne Whitaker; Reisa Sperling, M.D., professor of neurology and director, Center for Alzheimer’s Research and Treatment, Brigham and Women’s Hospital; and Meryl Comer.