There’s a lot going on with Alzheimer’s research these days. As we recently reported, the Rainwater Charitable Foundation announced $10 million for groundbreaking discoveries in the area of tauopathies—neurogenerative disorders involving tau proteins. And last month, a Silicon Valley philanthropist, in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association, awarded $6 million to test potential therapies to save brain cells.
This new infusion of research money is coming through Michaela “Mikey” Hoag’s Part the Cloud organization. Hoag founded Part the Cloud after losing her father to younger-onset Alzheimer’s. In partnership with Alzheimer’s Association, the Part the Cloud movement “addresses the critical need to support promising early phase clinical trials to help accelerate the transition of findings from the laboratory into possible therapies.”
Their initiative, called RESCUE (REverse, reStore, Cease and UndErstand) Brain Cell Degeneration in Alzheimer’s disease program, is awarding six researchers $1 million over two years. Their work is considered "high risk" science: it needs seed funding to get through initial testing and build supportive data. Once this basic data is generated, the scientists can seek further funding from government sources for larger clinical trials.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the RESCUE grants are an important step toward expanding the pipeline of new drugs to address the disease, which is still virtually untreatable.
Part the Cloud began as a black tie fundraiser in 2012 and raised $2 million. Since then, the biennial gala has gained substantial momentum. The event raised $4 million in 2014 and $10 million in 2016, with comedian Seth Rogen and his wife, actress Lauren Miller Rogen, as celebrity guests. The Part the Cloud gala is now the largest single-day fundraiser for the Alzheimer’s Association. In alternate years, Hoag organizes a women’s luncheon to raise money for Alzheimer’s research. The first, in 2013, garnered $100,000 from guests, while last year’s luncheon raised $800,000.
The Alzheimer’s Association has had good luck partnering with organizations that give more generally for health research as well with outfits that have an Alzheimer’s focus. Part the Cloud has raised an impressive $29 million to date for the Alzheimer’s Association, which has been dispersed to more than 30 research projects worldwide devoted to developing drugs for human trials. More importantly, that seed money has led to nearly $180 million in additional funding from the National Institutes of Health and other foundations.
Health experts convened for the Global Brain Summit in New Zealand recently to discuss issues in brain health, examining what has been called the greatest challenge facing societies this century. It’s no exaggeration: nearly 44 million people worldwide have Alzheimer’s, which is also the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. Given the years or decades required for most new drugs to be developed, this is no time to ease up on Alzheimer’s research funding.