Kennedy Gift Supports Alzheimer’s Research

Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center Director Allan Levey with a patient.

Atlantans Sarah and Jim Kennedy and their family foundations have given $5 million to Emory University for innovative research projects to address Alzheimer’s disease.

Allan Levey, who directs the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and chairs Emory’s Department of Neurology, will spearhead the work, which he says will be “unlike any project to date. We look forward to moving this promising research to the next level.

“Philanthropy is crucial to get promising but unproven treatments into trials and to attract federal funding. We are grateful to the Kennedys for their foresight and generosity,” Levey says.

The over-accumulation in the brain of a protein called amyloid is a key signature of Alzheimer’s disease. Recent studies have shown that most amyloid buildup occurs before memory loss, other clinical symptoms, and irreversible neurodegeneration. About 30 percent of healthy elderly people have amyloid deposits in their brains and yet have no brain degeneration.

Emory scientists discovered that norepinephrine plays a crucial role in controlling the brain’s response to amyloid and other insults. “These studies will help us determine whether we can increase norepinephrine levels in patients with amyloid accumulation and reduce brain inflammation,” said Levey. “We then can investigate whether drugs can achieve that goal and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. This research is headed towards prevention, as ultimately we aim to begin treatments and stop the disease before any symptoms begin.”

Many of the advances providing the foundation for the proposed research have occurred in animal models and other preclinical studies. As FDA-approved drugs that increase norepinephrine brain levels are already in use for other conditions, and millions of individuals now have conditions on the road to Alzheimer’s disease, there is great urgency to move these advances into human clinical research immediately.

“We are happy to support the important work of Dr. Levey and his Emory research team and to promote awareness of this devastating disease,” Sarah Kennedy says.

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