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Brown to build center dedicated to Alzheimer’s disease research

The launch of the Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research was funded by gifts from anonymous donors

An entrance to Brown University in Providence, R.I.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

PROVIDENCE — Brown University announced Wednesday that it is establishing a new research center that will be focused on early detection and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia.

The Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research will integrate scientists and physicians at the university’s Robert J. and Nancy D. Carney Institute for Brain Science and the Division of Biology and Medicine, home to the Warren Alpert Medical School.

The Center’s launch was funded by two gifts from anonymous donors — one for $25 million and the other for $5 million.

Brown has long researched the disease, with specialties that range from the study of risk genes, cognition, and the biology of aging, to development of new therapeutics and care of patients with dementia. The new Center will help link the research with clinical work across those areas.

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“The aim of the new center is to convene that expertise at Brown,” said Diane Lipscombe, a professor of neuroscience at Brown who leads the Carney Institute and will serve as the initial director of the Center. “Ultimately, our work will contribute to a more thorough understanding of the most fundamental mechanisms involved in neurodegeneration, which will enable earlier diagnosis as well as the creation of treatments that will not just slow degeneration but also prevent it.”

Lipscombe has directed the university’s brain science institute since 2016.

Dr. Jack A. Elias, dean of Brown’s medical school, said the idea for the Center came about after “yet another disappointing announcement that a pharmaceutical effort to treat Alzheimer’s had failed.”

The $30 million investment from the donors is part of the university’s initial fund-raising goal of $50 million for the center, and is part of the university’s BrownTogether campaign. It has raised $2.88 billion to date.

Brown’s work in brain science has raised more than $218.3 million through BrownTogether to date, to support research and education in brain science.

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Dr. Stephen Salloway, a professor of neurology and psychiatry, will serve as the associate director of the center and oversee clinical research. He’s been the lead author on key Alzheimer’s studies, including Eli Lilly and Co.’s new experimental drug called donanemab, which modestly slowed symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease over 18 months. Salloway, who is also the director of the Memory and Aging Program at Butler Hospital, was a co-author of the study, and principal investigator of a study at Butler.

“I would like to see Brown help to open the modern era of treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, where patients can receive an early and accurate diagnosis and start on treatments that preserve memory and quality of life,” Salloway said. “We are also entering a time where older people can safely learn about their risk for Alzheimer’s and take steps to keep their brain healthy — this center can help them do that, and the fluid biomarker facility will be an essential tool in enabling our success.”

The Center is established and the work is underway, according to university spokeswoman Corrie Pikul, and will be housed within the Robert J. & Nancy D. Carney Institute for Brain Science. The facility will serve as a bridge between basic laboratory science and clinical patient-focused research, said Lipscombe.

The gifts will also help expand a partnership with a translational research team led by Oskar Hansson of Lund University in Sweden, according to the university’s announcement. The teams at Brown and Lund will study a new cohort of 500 asymptomatic individuals to identify early biomarkers of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.

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Hansoon and his colleague Henrik Zetterberg will work with Brown on the establishment of the biomarker facility. The location for the facility has not yet been decided upon, said Pikul.


Alexa Gagosz can be reached at alexa.gagosz@globe.com. Follow her @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz.