Leading research funders build on global initiative with new nearly $2 million commitment to study commonalities of neurodegenerative diseases

Posted on 6th March 2015

Together, leading funders of research in the US, Canada and the UK are advancing a global funding initiative aimed at better understanding the similarities and differences between progressive brain-deteriorating diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, with an expanded partnership and increased funding.

The programme, Biomarkers Across Neurodegenerative Diseases (BAND), is a joint initiative of the Alzheimer’s Association and The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research in the US, the Weston Brain Institute in Canada, and Alzheimer’s Research UK, which joins the collaboration as the programme makes available a second round of research grant awards.

The new funding cycle will offer nearly $2 million USD (£1.3m/$2.5m CDN) for projects investigating the overlap in the biology and clinical symptoms of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and other brain-deteriorating diseases, which together affect tens of millions of people worldwide. Projects supported by BAND will compare data across these diseases, including genetic information, brain changes detected through imaging tools including PET and MRI scans, and measures of symptoms such as memory problems or physical tremors.

Each BAND-funded project must include a clear focus on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, or one of the two plus another neurodegenerative disease, such as FTD. BAND encourages the use of specific existing data sets on Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and frontotemporal dementia, as well as collaboration among researchers with diverse expertise.

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“Alzheimer’s Research UK is pleased to be joining this initiative, which we hope provides a vital new understanding of Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases. With growing numbers of people affected by neurodegenerative diseases, investment in research is crucial if we are to transform people’s lives. Charities have an important role to play in this fight and we are proud to be part of this collaborative effort to boost global research.”

Maria Carrillo, Ph.D., Chief Science Officer for the Alzheimer’s Association, said:

“This type of cross-disease analysis may uncover new biological targets for tracking risk, onset or progression of these diseases. In this way, BAND may help advance discovery of vital new clues for developing treatments.”

Alexandra Stewart, Executive Director, Weston Brain Institute, said:

“Our ongoing participation in the dynamic BAND programme reflects our unwavering commitment to filling the gaps and accelerating funding for novel approaches to targeted research into these progressive and debilitating brain diseases, which have now reached global epidemic proportions. Our hope is that by better understanding how these diseases overlap, we can guide the development of therapies that are effective in treating not only one, but multiple conditions.”

The Institute’s funding will go to grants awarded to Canadian researchers.

Mark Frasier, Ph.D., Senior Vice President of Research Programmes at The Michael J. Fox Foundation, said:

“A collaboration such as BAND promotes research efficiency. Expanding investigation beyond a single diagnosis opens the door to new discoveries, which can only benefit drug development and thereby the millions of patients who need new therapies.”

BAND is open to applications from scientists around the globe. The new round of funding will provide up to $150,000 USD (£98,000/$188,225 CDN) for each two-year research project; it is anticipated that awards will be made in October 2015. More information about how and when to apply for funding through this programme is available at www.alz.org/BAND.

The programme’s inaugural round of $1.3 million USD (£85,000/$1.6m CDN) in funding was granted in September 2014 and supports nine projects:

  • Genetics, Biomarkers and Mendelian Randomization to Identify Common Pathway
    Carlos Cruchaga, Ph.D., Washington University in St. Louis
  • Degeneration of the Human Connectome: Brain Networks in ADNI and PPMI
    Gautam Prasad, Ph.D., University of Southern California in Los Angeles
  • Subcortical Shape Analysis for Joint Biomarker Discovery
    Boris Gutman, Ph.D., University of Southern California in Los Angeles
  • Cortical and Functional Distinctions in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease Swati Rane, Ph.D., Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, TN
  • Variations in Brain Functional Complexity Across Neurodegeneration
    Norbert Schuff, Ph.D., University of California, San Francisco
  • Estimating Long-Term Disease Trajectories
    Michael Donohue, Ph.D., University of California, San Diego
  • Biomarkers for Personalized Treatment of Neurodegenerative Spectrum Disease
    Corey McMillan, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia
  • Brain Networks as Targets of Neurodegeneration in Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s
    Alain Dagher, M.D., McGill University in Montreal
  • Interpreting Disease Heterogeneity in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease
    Mallar Chakravarty, Ph.D., Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto

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