Texas A&M Health Science Center advancing Alzheimer’s disease research as coordinating center for new statewide grant program

November 21, 2014
Geriatric nurse caring for an older woman

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, an estimated 5.2 million people in the United States are affected by Alzheimer’s disease. Texas in particular ranks third in the nation for the number of Alzheimer’s disease cases and deaths.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, an estimated 5.2 million people in the United States are affected by Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Of those people, more than 500,000 die each year because of this debilitating and incurable disease. Texas in particular ranks third in the nation for the number of Alzheimer’s disease cases and deaths.

In 1999 the Texas State legislature mandated that the Texas Council on Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders establish a consortium of Alzheimer’s disease centers, leading to the formation of the Texas Alzheimer’s Research and Care Consortium (TARCC). Fifteen years later, the TARCC is comprised of six Texas medical research institutions, including Texas A&M Health Science Center (TAMHSC), all working together to advance scientific initiatives aimed at halting the disease in its tracks.

One such initiative is the new Texas Council on Alzheimer’s Disease & Related Disorders TARCC Investigator Grant Program (IGP), a part of the state-funded Darrell K. Royal Texas Alzheimer’s Initiative. The council selected TAMHSC to administer the grant that encourages utilization of TARCC’s extensive patient cohort through the award of five pilot grants of $50,000 each and two larger awards of $125,000 over a two-year period. The TARCC Investigator Grant Program, which specifically targets burgeoning scientists, aims to increase awareness and application of TARCC’s unique and expansive patient data and sample resources in order to stimulate new understandings of Alzheimer’s disease and advance related scientific discoveries.

“The Council has the utmost confidence in Texas A&M Health Science Center to design and administer this important allocation of Alzheimer’s disease research dollars in Texas. We are proud of our affiliation with TAMHSC and the benefit to all Texans that will come from this endeavor,” said Debbie Hanna, Chair Texas Council on Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders.

Specifically, the grant program will leverage the TARCC’s Texas Harris Alzheimer’s Study that tracks a diverse group of patients diagnosed with AD and mild cognitive impairment, as well as healthy controls. The study facilitates collaborative AD research projects among the TARCC member institutions and promotes novel, basic and clinical research that develops new insights into mechanisms of AD. One of study’s strengths is that it follows the participants annually in conjunction with regular collection of standardized clinical, neuropsychiatric, and genetic and blood biomarker data and samples. The study is unique in its inclusion of the largest number of Mexican-American participants – the fastest growing population in Texas – ever involved in an ongoing Alzheimer’s research study.

“Given the comprehensive nature of the data collected, as well as the inclusion of Mexican-Americans, the Texas Harris Alzheimer’s Study is an invaluable asset to national AD research” said Farida Sohrabji, Ph.D., professor and associate department chair at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, who serves on the TARCC’s Steering Committee and will be responsible for coordinating launch and award administration of the grant program. “Although open to all researchers within the state, the program will target junior-level investigators to provide up-and-coming researchers with financial support to advance studies that utilize this unparalleled resource and spur multi-institutional, collaborative research throughout Texas.”

More information on the grant program and future announcements of application deadlines can be found at: http://www.txalzresearch.org/.

— Elizabeth Grimm

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