7 February 2012. The Obama Administration is investing an additional $130 million in Alzheimer's research over the next two years, health officials announced today at a press conference in Washington, D.C. A portion of that money—$50 million—will be available immediately from the FY 2012 budget of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). An additional $80 million will come forward as part of President Obama's budget request to Congress, to be released on 13 February.
"We can't wait to confront the growing threat that Alzheimer's disease poses to American families and to our nation," said Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "The time for bold action on the growing public health challenge posed by Alzheimer's is right now."
This year’s portion will be put toward basic and clinical research on genetic and therapeutic studies, said Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. "Thanks to the new infusion of funds announced today, I think Alzheimer's research is poised for some great discoveries," Collins said. Studies that might benefit include those that search for genes that protect against and confer risk of the disease, develop cell-based models to screen molecules for therapeutic agents, and trials that test therapies in people who are at high risk for AD. "Thanks to funding from this new initiative, we should be able to accelerate our plans to test the most promising of these approaches in larger trials."
This $130 million research investment over two years adds to the estimated $458 million to be spent by NIH for Alzheimer's research in 2012 (see NIH RePORT), a 25 percent increase over current spending. (The $80 million will be in the 2013 budget request.) An additional $26 million will appear in the 2013 budget request for Alzheimer's education, outreach, caregiver support, and healthcare provider training. "Caregivers for people with Alzheimer's and related dementia are often unprepared for the challenges of providing care," said Kathy Greenlee, Assistant Secretary for Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Community education, especially programs that take into account cultural and socioeconomic disparities in the differential risk for dementia, are sorely needed, she added.
"This is a great first step," said Eric Reiman, Banner Alzheimer's Institute, Phoenix, Arizona, who views the initial investment as a "down payment" on the eventual funds, perhaps on the order of $2 billion to $2.3 billion per year, that will be needed to cure Alzheimer's by 2025, as laid out in the National Alzheimer's Protection Act (see ARF related news story). Reiman leads the Alzheimer's Prevention Initiative, one of two large studies to initiate prevention trials in people who are at high risk for AD within the next few years. Reiman is not sure what the announcement means for his own research, but he has a pending grant application with the National Institute on Aging to test an amyloid-modifying agent in people at imminent genetic risk for AD. "I do appreciate the fact that the federal government has decided to make this investment, despite challenging financial times for the NIH," Reiman said.—Gwyneth Dickey Zakaib.