Two researchers share the 2015 Potamkin Prize for Research in Pick’s, Alzheimer’s, and Related Diseases. Peter Davies from the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, New York, and Reisa Sperling of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston received the award at the 67th annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, held in Washington, D.C., April 18-25. They will split the $100,000 prize, which comes from the Potamkin Family Foundation of Miami Lakes, Florida, and rewards contributions to research in neurodegenerative disease.


Peter Davies, left, and Reisa Sperling share this year’s Potamkin Prize for Research. [Images courtesy of the Feinstein Institute and MGH.]

Davies was instrumental in first describing the loss of cholinergic neurons in Alzheimer’s disease (see Davies and Maloney, 1976). That work led to the development of anticholinesterase drugs, one of only two types of treatment the FDA has approved for Alzheimer's. Davies later focused on tau, developing a host of tau antibodies including the well-known Alz50 and MC-1, which remain among the most widely used in the field. Davies developed mouse models of tauopathy and championed the idea that this microtubule-binding protein can reactivate the cell cycle in neurons in people with AD (Andorfer et al., 2005). Most recently, Davies has focused on post-translational modifications and conformational changes in tau that could contribute to disease, as well as tau therapies (see May 2011 news).

Sperling has focused her research on early detection and treatment of AD. She is the principal investigator of the Harvard Aging Brain Study and previously led the joint effort by the National Institute on Aging and Alzheimer’s Association to propose new guidelines diagnosing preclinical AD (see Apr 2011 news on Sperling et al., 2011). She leads the A4 Study, a three-year secondary prevention trial that is testing the anti-Aβ antibody solanezumab in cognitively normal older people who have amyloid in the brain (see Dec 2014 news).

At AAN, Sperling gave an update on A4, saying that 1,400 people have been screened and more than 100 randomized thus far. She announced that an A5 trial will be underway soon. It will test Janssen’s BACE1 inhibitor in people 60 and older with amyloid accumulation. Both Davies and Sperling have been scientific advisers and frequent contributors to Alzforum. Congratulations!—Gwyneth Dickey Zakaib


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News Citations

  1. San Francisco: Tau—Time to Shine as Therapeutic Target?
  2. Revised Diagnostic Criteria for Alzheimer’s Are Published
  3. From Shared CAP, Secondary Prevention Trials Are Off and Running

Therapeutics Citations

  1. Solanezumab
  2. Atabecestat

Paper Citations

  1. . Selective loss of central cholinergic neurons in Alzheimer's disease. Lancet. 1976 Dec 25;2(8000):1403. PubMed.
  2. . Cell-cycle reentry and cell death in transgenic mice expressing nonmutant human tau isoforms. J Neurosci. 2005 Jun 1;25(22):5446-54. PubMed.
  3. . Toward defining the preclinical stages of Alzheimer's disease: recommendations from the National Institute on Aging-Alzheimer's Association workgroups on diagnostic guidelines for Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimers Dement. 2011 May;7(3):280-92. Epub 2011 Apr 21 PubMed.

External Citations

  1. Harvard Aging Brain Study
  2. A4 Study
  3. trial 

Further Reading