Leading Alzheimer's researcher joins UF to fight brain diseases

Todd Golde, M.D., Ph.D.

Todd Golde, M.D., Ph.D.

A leader in the fight against brain diseases and in drug discovery to help Alzheimer’s patients has joined the University of Florida College of Medicine, interim dean Michael Good, M.D., announced today.

Todd Golde, M.D., Ph.D., formerly the chairman of the department of neuroscience at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, will create and direct the College of Medicine’s new Center for Translational Research in Neurodegenerative Disease, Good said. He will lead an effort to develop treatments and diagnostics for Alzheimer’s disease, dementias, Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases.

“Dementia impacts our lives with such devastation, and it is estimated that it will touch nearly a half a million patients and their families in Florida alone in the coming year,” Good said. “Dr. Golde’s recruitment to UF strengthens our team with one of the brightest minds working in this field. He and we are determined to beat this foe.”

Golde’s work complements existing efforts by UF neuroscientists, neurologists and McKnight Brain Institute researchers, according to David Guzick, M.D., Ph.D., UF’s senior vice president for health affairs and president of the UF&Shands Health System, who strongly encouraged Golde’s recruitment.

“We’re interested in building a world-class research program, and Dr. Golde has demonstrated he can build a team focused in an important area, in this case Alzheimer’s disease and neurodegenerative diseases,” Guzick said. “This is a very opportune time with the opening of the Biomedical Sciences Building to put the resources of such a state-of-the-art building in the hands of someone who can use them so productively.”

Golde, who received his doctoral and medical degrees at Case Western Reserve University, began his professional career as an assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. He was chief resident for laboratory medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania before joining the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville in 1997 as an assistant professor of pharmacology. He became chair of the neuroscience department at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville in 2003.

He expects to further advance his research program at UF.

“I am extremely excited about this opportunity to work with the faculty at UF and build a group focused on doing something about major neurodegenerative diseases,” Golde said.

In addition to directing the UF Center for Translational Research in Neurodegenerative Disease, Golde will be a professor of neuroscience, according to Lucia Notterpek, Ph.D., who chairs the neuroscience department.

“He has been at the forefront of Alzheimer’s disease research and has an incredible scientific reputation,” Notterpek said. “I think Dr. Golde’s arrival enhances the department’s image nationally and will help us obtain large, programmatic grants. It’s going to be a great boost for us and very beneficial to the College of Medicine and the Health Science Center.”

Notterpek expects additional recruitments will further grow Golde’s research group and the neuroscience department.

“He is a good fit for our faculty, students and postdocs,” she said.

For example, Golde’s work dovetails with UF neuroscientist and MBI researcher David Borchelt’s studies of amyloid beta protein, believed to contribute to the accumulation of “brain plaque” in Alzheimer’s patients.

Writing in Nature in 2008, Golde helped explain the molecular interplay between amyloid beta protein and a class of therapeutic agents known as gamma-secretase modulators, or GSMs, now being tested in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

Golde’s group discovered GSMs work by reducing production of longer, toxic pieces of the amyloid beta protein, while enhancing production of shorter amyloid strands that may actually thwart Alzheimer’s disease.

“He is a superb Alzheimer’s disease and neuroscience researcher — one of the best and most respected in the world,” said Dennis A. Steindler, executive director of the McKnight Brain Institute. “He is not only going to complement our existing programs, he will create new ones that will enable us to target all neurological disorders.”

His experience in drug discovery and expertise in transforming laboratory discoveries into clinical therapies and diagnostics will be welcome, according to Tetsuo Ashizawa, M.D., chairman of the department of neurology.

“This is an extraordinary fit with a variety of our researchers fighting to end neurodegenerative diseases and cognitive decline,” Ashizawa said. “My excitement lies in the collaborations and new relationships that we will build, and how that will enrich the clinical and translational research in the neurology department. This group will really add fuel to the fire.”

The new Center for Translational Research in Neurodegenerative Disease fills a niche in efforts to speed laboratory discoveries to the clinic, said Stephen Sugrue, Ph.D., senior associate dean for research affairs at the College of Medicine.

“This is the first center we’ve specifically geared toward translational research,” Sugrue said. “Our intent is to fully understand the mechanisms of neurodegenerative diseases and identify targets for health interventions.”

Golde will meet with College of Medicine faculty and plan his lab space as he begins the task of building the center.