Boston University Receives Grant to Study Alzheimer’s

The $12.6 million grant is a part of a five-university collaboration.

Researchers from the Biomedical Genetics Division of the Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have received a $12.6 million, four-year grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)—in conjunction with four other universities—to collaborate on identifying rare genetic variants that may relate to Alzheimer’s disease.

Called the Consortium for Alzheimer’s Sequence Analysis (CASA), BUSM will join forces with Case Western Reserve University, Columbia University, the University of Miami, and the University of Pennsylvania.

According to a report released by BUSM:

The CASA investigators will analyze whole exome and whole genome sequence data generated during the first phase of the NIH Alzheimer’s Disease Sequencing Program, an innovative collaboration that began in 2012 between NIA and the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), also part of NIH. They will analyze data from 6,000 volunteers with Alzheimer’s disease and 5,000 older individuals who do not have the disease. In addition, they will study genomic data from 111 large families with multiple members who have Alzheimer’s disease, mostly of Caucasian and Caribbean Hispanic descent to identify rare genetic variants.

“This is an exciting opportunity to apply new genomic technologies and computational methods to improve our understanding of the biological pathways underlying this disease,” said Lindsay A. Farrer, the principal investigator and chief of biomedical genetics at BUSM. “The genes and pathways we identify as integral to the Alzheimer process may become novel therapeutic targets.”

New research suggests that by 2050, the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease may triple. The progressive neurodegenerative disorder has become an epidemic, according to BUSM, which “currently affects as many as five million people age 65 and older in the United States, with economic costs that are comparable to, if not greater than, caring for those of heart disease or cancer.”

Researchers at BUSM say that the drugs available for Alzheimer’s patients only “marginally affect disease severity” and with no current way to prevent the disease, they are hopeful that the discovery of genetic risk factors for Alzheimer’s can bring about new interventions.