When the center launched, there were already more than 60 faculty working on Alzheimer's disease at Brown. From brain scientists to computer scientists and from engineers to neurologists, the center provides new opportunities for partnership and entrepreneurship by connecting The Warren Alpert Medical School, the Carney Institute for Brain Science, the Memory and Aging Program at Butler Hospital, and the Alzheimer's Disease & Memory Disorders Center at Rhode Island Hospital.
“Science tends to be incremental, and you need a critical mass,” says Salloway. “You have one advance and then someone else uses that in their experiment and creates a new advance, and it keeps building. I think we're really breaking new ground, and Brown is in a position to be a pioneer in Alzheimer's research.”
Another great reason to strengthen Brown’s efforts in Alzheimer’s is recent advances in the field, one being personalized medicine. “We now have the tools to detect who's at risk and what stage they are at in their brain, which we didn't have before,” says Salloway. “And then hopefully we can institute treatments that target just that pathology for that specific person — rather than giving sort of a blanket treatment for everyone.”
Dr. Furie believes Brown has the right people and right perspective to radically change how Alzheimer's patients are diagnosed and managed, and that gives her an incredible amount of optimism.
“I suspect that we will make the greatest advances in patients who already have cognitive dysfunction and are already diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease,” she says. “But that's just the first step.”
After making those strides, she says, it will be critical to go back and identify the earliest signal of potential risk and try to intervene before patients become symptomatic.
“When I trained several decades ago, we didn't have very much to offer patients who came in with acute neurological injuries or chronic degenerative processes. Now we have a whole armamentarium of diagnostic tools that didn't exist.”
And from a research perspective, she says, we're gaining an amazing amount of information about brain function, brain recovery and understanding, and physiologic processes that regulate brain function and brain repair. “I'm very confident that we're going to change the trajectory of Alzheimer's disease.”