UF to welcome McKnight scientists, board members

Leading neuroscientists and clinicians will discuss efforts to stave off age-related memory loss when the University of Florida hosts the McKnight Brain Research Foundation’s 3rd inter-Institutional meeting beginning April 28.

Researchers from the Foundation’s brain institutes at UF, the University of Arizona and the University of Alabama, along with the Evelyn F. McKnight Center for Age Related Memory Loss at the University of Miami, will discuss measures to begin human clinical trials directed at age-related memory decline.

“Research has provided clues to the causes for memory decline,” said Thomas Foster, Ph.D., the Evelyn F. McKnight chair for brain research in memory loss at UF’s McKnight Brain Institute and the College of Medicine. “One goal is to use this information to predict and prevent cognitive decline prior to clinical signs and symptoms.”

Foster will moderate a group of medical doctors who will discuss how to bring diagnostics and treatments for age-related memory loss to the clinic during one of the sessions of the three-day conference.

Taking part will be Eric Reiman, director of the Alzheimer’s disease research program at the University of Arizona and clinical director of the neurogenomics division of the Translational Genomics Research Institute, and Ralph Sacco, executive director of the Evelyn F. McKnight Center for Age Related Memory Loss at the University of Miami. With them will be will be Marco Pahor, M.D., the director of the UF Institute on Aging who is leading a National Institute of Health grant to construct a 40,000-square-foot complex for clinical and translational research; Wajeeh Bajwa, director of clinical affairs and licensing with UF’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute; and Hubert Fernandez, director of clinical trials for movement disorders at UF.

“The purpose of the inter-institutional meeting is to bring together the McKnight researchers and share data,” Foster said. “We want to strengthen our collaborations, focus on doing the translational research and ultimately conduct clinical studies to solve problems of learning and memory in aging. We want to be able to successfully treat cognitive loss and decline.”

Most of the presentations will take place at Hilton University of Florida Conference Center, beginning with opening remarks from David Guzick, M.D., senior vice president for health affairs and president of the UF&Shands Health System, and J. Lee Dockery, M.D., a McKnight Brain Research Foundation trustee and a former interim and executive associate dean of the UF College of Medicine.

Visiting scientists and Foundation trustees will have the opportunity to visit UF’s Evelyn F. and William L. McKnight Brain Institute, named for an Foundation endowment that with matching funds amounted to $30 million to develop therapies and treatments to preserve memory for a lifetime, no matter how long the lifetime may be.

“The whole concept of restoring memory and preventing memory loss is an important health-care issue,” said UF’s McKnight Brain Institute Executive Director Dennis Steindler, Ph.D., who will open the doors of the institute to the McKnight guests. “With advances in medical science, we are seeing people live longer, and the brain’s good health has to keep pace with the rest of the body. We are working hard to make sure that happens.”

A keynote speaker for the conference is Kenneth Heilman, M.D., a UF distinguished professor of neurology who recently published the book “Postgraduate Year One: Lessons in Caring,” about his initiation into the world of doctoring. He is also the author of “Creativity and the Brain,” a concept he will talk about in regard to the aging brain.

Also delivering a keynote talk is Scott Small, M.D., an associate professor of neurology in the division of aging and dementia at Columbia University Medical Center. A recipient of the McKnight Foundation award in clinical neuroscience, his talk is “Zooming in on cognitive aging: MRI maps to molecular mechanisms.”

Michael Good, M.D., dean of the UF College of Medicine, will close the meeting with remarks on April 30.