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Yerkes National Primate Research Center

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Imagine a world without Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. A world where few people have heard of AIDS. Researchers at Yerkes National Primate Research Center not only can imagine this healthier world but also are working every day to find ways to prevent, treat, and cure these and many other illnesses. Yerkes is one of only eight centers designated by the National Institutes of Health as a national primate research resource, which makes it a leader in basic and translational studies, and Yerkes leads the nation in the compassionate care of animals in research environments. Gifts to Yerkes help open new avenues of research, educate and train promising young scientists, and engage the public more fully in the center’s work.

Giving Opportunities

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Director’s Priorities

Yerkes is a leader among the nation’s primate research centers, a resource to researchers worldwide, an advocate for quality care of animals in research and a source of inspiration for the scientific leaders of tomorrow.

Much of the Yerkes Research Center’s ongoing research would not be possible without the support of our donors who generously fund pioneering research, the latest technology and specialized training that will help people of all ages. While much of our work is funded by prestigious federal grants, unrestricted private gifts allow Yerkes researchers maximum flexibility and speed to make new discoveries.

Because grant funding fails to cover many expenses that are essential for the advancement of research, we rely on individual donations to accelerate discovery and provide seed funding that can lead to larger grants. Our ability to develop effective treatments, cures and prevention strategies depends on the level of resources available to support the vital work of Yerkes researchers.

Director R. Paul Johnson outlines some of Yerkes fund-raising priorities below.

HIV Cure Research

In 2015, Yerkes established a translational research program called ERASE AIDS (Emory Research Alliance to Stop/Eradicate AIDS). This new program builds on the existing expertise of researchers at Emory to conduct transformative studies aimed at finding a cure for HIV infection. The goal of ERASE AIDS is to develop and optimize novel therapeutic approaches to cure AIDS using the nonhuman primate model. Individual donations will keep Yerkes researchers on their path toward this important, worldwide health goal.

Neurodegenerative Disease Research

Yerkes is committed to developing novel treatments for neurodegenerative diseases. Our researchers’ efforts with noninvasive magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are focused on primate models of human inherited diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease and Huntington’s disease. Yerkes researchers are also studying the neural networks that play critical roles in the pathophysiology of Parkinson’s disease. With additional funding, we can expand these unique translational models in order to make significant contributions to the discovery of new, effective therapies for neurodegenerative diseases.

Genomics Research

Yerkes is uniquely positioned to better understand how genetics influence susceptibility to disease and response to treatment. To do this, center researchers have begun sequencing the full genome of each rhesus monkey in the Yerkes breeding colony.  Because these animals can closely mimic human conditions, researchers plan to use the information gained to develop better treatments and even prevention strategies for human conditions, such as Alzheimer's disease, cardiovascular disease and stroke. Private funding is certain to accelerate the pace of our genomics research and, ultimately, our discoveries.   

Pilot Projects

Private funding can also help Early Stage Investigators accelerate the timing of their new research pursuits and parlay their results into greater funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Via pilot grant programs that provide seed funding for up to two years, researchers work to produce initial scientific results that have the potential to positively impact future research studies. During the last five years, every $1 invested in pilot research programs at Yerkes has resulted in more than $30 in resulting grant funding, representing, in total, almost $40 million in new research grants for our center. Such strategic, short-term investments are directly connected to stronger NIH research applications, larger-scale research projects and longer-term research funding intended to positively impact human health.

Graduate student fellowships. The center has established the Stuart Zola Graduate Fellowship in Neuroscience to honor the long-term leadership of previous director Stuart Zola, his successful career as a researcher and his unwavering commitment to supporting the training of neuroscientists. Donations to this fellowship will help fund at least one neuroscience graduate student each year and will make a difference in the lives of those who will benefit from their research. 

Endowed chairs. Endowments provide the ability to attract well-established research teams, and they support the recruitment of junior scientists. Support for endowed chairs will allow Yerkes to recruit the best researchers in immunology, translational neuroscience, genetics and other areas.

Educational outreach. Part of Yerkes’ mission is to provide educational opportunities for students and teachers. Current programs take researchers into the community and bring high school students and teachers into the center for hands-on experience and curriculum support. Funding is crucial to these outreach activities, which recipients have described as life changing.


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