Congressional leaders gave the Alzheimer’s and dementia communities an early holiday present this week, announcing an additional $350 million annual appropriation for research into the diseases.
The increase, which was approved by the House on Tuesday afternoon, must still be approved by the Senate and signed by President Trump. It would bring the annual appropriations for dementia research up to $2.8 billion, a 600 percent increase since 2011 when Congress adopted the National Alzheimer’s Project Act.
Robert Egge, the chief public policy officer for the Alzheimer’s Association, thanked the thousands of advocates who worked to build relationships with members of Congress and urge them to increase the federal funding for Alzheimer’s research.
“We are incredibly grateful to congressional champions for their support and we are proud of the relationships our advocates have built with all members of Congress to demonstrate the need for research and the impact it will have on their families and future generations,” Egge said.
In a presentation at the recent Clinical Trials on Alzheimer’s Disease (CTAD) conference in San Diego, Eliezer Masliah, Director of the Division of Neuroscience at the National Institute on Aging (NIA), which is responsible for spending the federal funding, said that the growing support from Congress opens many new possibilities for research into treatment and a cure for Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
Masliah told Science Magazine that the funding boost represents a “golden era” for studying Alzheimer’s disease. “I’ve been in this field for over 30 years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said.
But at the CTAD conference, Masliah admitted that the Alzheimer’s research community has a long way to go.
“If you compare the number of clinical trials in cancer, cardiovascular disease, HIV,” he said, “you can see that we are still at a very early stage [for Alzheimer’s].”
In cancer, for example, Masliah said that there are approximately 3,000 clinical trials in the field. For cardiovascular research, he said, there are approximately 500. Clinical trials on HIV number about 100.
“In Alzheimer’s, we have an average of 50 to 60 clinical trials,” he said.
In November, the Alzheimer’s Association also announced another funding milestone when philanthropist Bill Gates pledged $10 million to Alzheimer’s research. It’s a figure the Alzheimer’s Association said will lead to $60 million funding for the association’s special research. That research is designed to quickly move potential therapies from the laboratory to clinical trials.
The Association said the new funds would be used to explore three specific areas: how brain cells use energy and fuel, how brain cells remove waste and debris to avoid protein clumping, and how blood supply in the brain is maintained.
“By better understanding the underpinnings of how brain cells can maintain normal function, more potential therapeutic options can be developed,” said Maria Carrillo, the Association’s chief science officer.