26 May 2012. This year, the MetLife Foundation honored a trio of investigators with the MetLife Awards for Medical Research in Alzheimer’s disease. Clifford Jack, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, and Christine Van Broeckhoven, University of Antwerp, Belgium, each received $200,000 to further their research, as well as a $50,000 personal prize for their contributions to the understanding of AD. Randall Bateman received the Promising Investigator Award, which comes with a $100,000 research grant for his work at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri. This institutional grant was last awarded in 2005. The three received their prizes 15 May 2012 at a ceremony in New York.
Established in 1986, these awards recognize scientists who distinguished themselves in the quest to understand and one day treat AD. This year's recipients furthered the field's understanding of the disease through brain imaging, genetics, biomarkers, and soon-to-be-tried treatments.
MetLife honors Jack, who leads the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) core, for his advances in magnetic resonance imaging that help measure both severity and progression of AD, predict the future course of the disease, and may serve as an outcome measure in treatment trials. The Foundation further recognized his biomarker staging model (see ARF Webinar on Jack et al., 2010), which proposes the time course of change in the top five biomarkers of AD and serves as the backbone for recently proposed preclinical Alzheimer’s disease criteria.
Van Broeckhoven has been a leader in several of the major genetics discoveries on neurodegenerative diseases. She identified amyloid precursor protein gene mutations that highlighted the relationship between neuronal and vascular components of AD (see Kumar-Singh et al., 2000), helped confirm presenilin 1's part in leading to FAD (see Van Broeckhoven et al., 1992) and ApoE4 as a major risk factor for both sporadic and early-onset forms of the disease, and revealed a role for the brain's blood vessels in neurodegeneration (see ARF related news story). More recently, she led one of the groups that co-discovered progranulin as a major cause of frontotemporal dementia (see ARF related news story on Cruts et al., 2006).
Bateman was honored for developing stable isotope-labeling kinetics (SILK) to measure cerebrospinal fluid marker dynamics (see ARF related news story). Using this method, he showed that amyloid clearance is a problem for people with late-onset AD (see ARF related news story) and that γ-secretase inhibitors reduce Aβ production in the brain (see ARF related news story). Bateman directs the clinical core and treatment trials arm of the Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer Network. This initiative is gearing up for therapeutic prevention trials in carriers of deterministic mutations as a stepping stone toward secondary prevention trials in people at risk for sporadic forms of the disease (see ARF related news series).—Gwyneth Dickey Zakaib.