UF Alzheimer's researcher receives MetLife research grant


The director of the Center for Translational Research in Neurodegenerative Diseases at the University of Florida received the MetLife Foundation Award for Medical Research in Alzheimer’s Disease during a scientific briefing and luncheon Thursday, Feb. 25 in Washington, D.C.

Todd Golde, M.D., a professor of neuroscience in the College of Medicine, studies amyloid beta protein, a substance believed to contribute to the accumulation of “brain plaque” in Alzheimer’s patients.

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.

Todd Golde, M.D., Ph.D., director of the College of Medicine’s new Center for Translational Research in Neurodegenerative Disease. Photo by John Pastor

He was honored alongside his frequent collaborator, Edward H. Koo, M.D., a professor of neuroscience at the University of California-San Diego, as well as Eva-Maria Mandelkow, Ph.D., and Eckhard Mandelkow, Ph.D., of the Max Planck Institute for Structural Molecular Biology in Hamburg, Germany.

Each winner received a $100,000 research grant and personal prize of $25,000 to further their work.

“This year’s recipients are examples of how differing schools of thought can come together to solve some of the world’s most vexing problems,” according to a statement from the MetLife Foundation. “Drs. Koo and Golde have together identifed the gamma-secretase modulators that decrease production of the highly toxic 42 amino acid “long” form of (amyloid beta protein), which holds great promise for drug therapies to treat or prevent Alzheimer’s.”

The event’s keynote speech was delivered by photographer Judith Fox, author of the book “I Still Do: Loving and Living with Alzheimer’s.”

The book tells the story of Fox’s husband, Dr. Edmund Ackell — the first dean of UF’s College of Dentistry and provost for health affairs at UF from 1968-1973 — who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s three years into their marriage. Photo-Eye Magazine named the book “one of the best of 2009.”

C. Robert Henrikson, chairman, president and chief executive officer of MetLife, said in a statement, “MetLife Foundation has long recognized the impact Alzheimer’s has on families, society and the economy. We continue our commitment to support the outstanding scientists who are making strides and developing methods to combat and, perhaps someday, prevent Alzheimer’s disease from impacting future generations.”

As many as 5.3 million Americans have Alzheimer’s, making it the seventh leading cause of death. Unless the disease can be effectively treated, delayed or prevented, the number of people with Alzheimer’s could increase to 7.7 million in 2030, according to MetLife.

“As physician-scientists we’re trying to prevent human suffering,” said Golde, who is associated with UF’s McKnight Brain Institute. “If we can impact this horrible disease so much fewer people get it — that’s our goal.”

MetLife Foundation has granted major awards to scientists who have demonstrated significant contributions to the understanding of Alzheimer’s disease since 1986. The program’s goal is to recognize the importance of basic research with an emphasis on providing scientists the opportunity to pursue ideas.