$25 million donation to target Alzheimer's early detection at Emory

March 3, 2015

Video featuring Dr. Allan Levey, Director of Emory's Alzheimer's Disease Research Center (ADRC), one of 27 active centers in the nation supported by the National Institutes of Health.

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Robin Reese

Emory University's Alzheimer's Disease Research Center will receive a transformational donation to support advanced research into early detection of Alzheimer's disease. The Goizueta Foundation is committing $25 million toward research aimed at fundamentally changing the way Alzheimer's disease is detected and treated. 

"Because Alzheimer's disease starts decades before symptoms begin, research to determine who will develop the disease is crucial," says Allan Levey, MD, PhD, director of the Emory ADRC and chair of the Department of Neurology at the Emory University School of Medicine.  "This transformational gift will allow us to discover ways to predict Alzheimer's disease long before the first signs appear – a key first step that will enable us to develop new treatment targets and prevent the disease for future generations. And as we learn more about risk factors for Alzheimer's disease, we also gain a better understanding of its relationship to vascular, immune and other key health concerns that many Americans face as they age."

"Our father believed in making smart investments where the outcomes may be uncertain but the rewards could be great," said Olga Goizueta Rawls, the Foundation's chair and CEO. "It's likely that everyone in the Atlanta community and beyond knows someone who has been affected by some form of dementia, such as Alzheimer's. We believe that strengthening Emory's ADRC will help generate the much-needed support for innovative research for all neuro-related diseases."

Emory's ADRC is one of just 13 comprehensive research centers supported by the National Institutes of Health and the only such entity in the Southeast. "The goal of each of these centers is to bring together scientists from different disciplines to work collaboratively on research into Alzheimer's disease and related conditions," says Levey.

In recent years, cutbacks in research funding from the federal government and other sources has put increased pressure on researchers' ability to fund new, early-stage projects. This commitment will fund development of early "proof-of-concept" findings, enabling Emory researchers to apply for NIH and other funding sources to more rapidly move innovation out of the laboratory and into the community. 

"The abiding goal of this work is to develop better diagnostic and predictive tools that will be essential in order to start new prevention measures as early as possible – long before brain degeneration ensues.  We also aim to develop tools to help physicians and caregivers provide the best possible treatment for patients," says Levey.

The economic toll of Alzheimer's disease and other brain disorders are growing each year. These include not only the cost of treatment, but also the lost productivity of patients and their caregivers, who often experience enormous emotional, practical and financial burdens.  The costs affect nearly every aspect of daily life for those who suffer from the disease and those who care for them.

The Alzheimer's Association estimates that, in 2014, the cost of providing care for Alzheimer's patients in the U.S. was projected at $214 billion per year including $150 billion in costs to Medicare and Medicaid. If present trends continue, this cost is projected to grow to $1.2 trillion per year (in 2014 dollars) by 2050.

The financial toll of Alzheimer's on families rivals the costs to Medicaid. Total Medicaid spending for people with Alzheimer's disease is $37 billion and out-of-pocket spending for individuals with Alzheimer's and other dementias is estimated at $36 billion.