Two study participants with the UCI MIND Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center meet with UCI researchers, at left, Dr. Malcolm Dick and Dr. Gaby Thai. Courtesy of Laurel Hungerford

UCI MIND, the Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders at UCI, has been awarded a $14.4 million grant from the National Institute on Aging, one of the National Institutes of Health, to sustain critical research and education as Orange County’s only Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.

The NIA funds only 32 of these centers at major academic institutions across the U.S. They conduct groundbreaking research to improve the understanding, diagnosis, care and treatment for people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

“The value of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center is immeasurable to both the campus and the community,” said Pramod Khargonekar, vice chancellor of research at UCI. “The grant leverages the outstanding expertise we have in this area, opening doors for new collaborative research activities. But it is the Orange County community, which has one of the largest populations of people with dementia in the U.S., that benefits most from our ADRC and the amazing work its researchers do.”

This is the eighth time that UCI MIND has earned the competitive five-year NIA award. It funds 10 collaborative “cores,” each with a unique focus and led by at least one UCI faculty member.

“Our research team brings passionate and novel cross-disciplinary approaches to try to solve this insidious disease. We collaborate with colleagues across the nation, and we provide critical resources to the community,” said Frank LaFerla, dean of the UCI School of Biological Sciences, ADRC director and primary investigator on the grant. “It takes an outstanding team of leading clinicians and researchers to obtain one of these competitive grants.”

UCI benefits from the highly collaborative environment here and a strong group of investigators that lead each of the cores and components. Cores are led by faculty from the schools of medicine, biological sciences and information & computer science. LaFerla, UCI MIND director Dr. Joshua Grill and Andrea Wasserman lead an administrative core. A clinical core is led by Drs. Claudia Kawas and David Sultzer. Additional cores are led by Dr. Daniel Gillen (data management and Statistics), Dr. Edwin Monuki (neuropathology), Grill (outreach recruitment and engagement), Dr. Mathew Blurton-Jones (induced pluripotent stem cell), Dr. Craig Stark (biomarker), Dr. Ira Lott (Down syndrome), Dr. Maria Corrada (90+ study) and Dr. Elizabeth Head (research education).

“UCI’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center is an important beacon for families dealing with dementia in Orange County and beyond. “They trust our investigators to get to the bottom of these diseases and find solutions,” said Dr. Michael Stamos, dean of the UCI School of Medicine.

Nationally, nearly 6 million people are living with Alzheimer’s disease, a number projected to triple in the coming decades unless a prevention or cure is discovered. Researchers at UCI MIND plan to do exactly that. In Orange County, Alzheimer’s disease affects more than 80,000 residents and is the third leading cause of death.