On July 18, NIA Director Dr. Richard Hodes announced that Dr. Eliezer Masliah had been appointed director of the Division of Neuroscience. Dr. Masliah was previously head of the Experimental Neuropathology Laboratory at the University of California, San Diego, and directed the neuropathology core of the UCSD Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. He was also a member of the National Advisory Council on Aging. “Inside NIA” sat down with Dr. Masliah to talk about his research plans for the division.
Why did you leave your academic career and lab to join the NIA?
I had a wonderful 30 years in academia, including basic research to early-stage clinical trials to the development of several biotech companies. But I felt ready to move to the next stage where I could influence research directed at achieving the ultimate goal of the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease. This is an incredibly exciting time in Alzheimer’s research, and I am delighted to be part of the NIA team.
What are your goals for the Division of Neuroscience (DN) over the next 5 to 10 years? What would you like to see accomplished through the research DN supports?
My ultimate goal is one shared by the wider research community—that of advancing the National Plan objective of identifying effective treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias by 2025. It’s a tall order and we face many challenges. But I’m confident we’ll find treatments for this disorder if we focus our time and talents in three specific areas:
- We will continue to support—and even expand—our investigations into the molecular and physiological processes underlying Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. We are committed to supporting the multidisciplinary, collaborative science needed to unravel the many factors involved in Alzheimer’s onset and progression.
- It is imperative to expand and improve recruitment efforts for clinical trials. If we can’t overcome the deficit of volunteers, our most promising interventions will languish at the preclinical stage.
- We will fund more training for NIA grantees working in Alzheimer’s research, and encourage those interested in pursuing a career in the field. We need to support early-stage investigators and develop the expertise—from neuropathologists to neuropsychologists to statisticians—to build multifaceted investigations.
What are the most important things for current and prospective grantees to know about DN right now?
At this moment, the field of dementia research is filled with excitement and energy. The recent surge in funding probably has something to do with that! The arrival of new tools, coupled with a rapid pace of discovery, are also significant drivers of this energy. I encourage you to follow this blog, and to regularly visit the DN landing page for news of funding opportunity announcements. We have dozens of open funding opportunities right now and more will be announced in fiscal year 2017. Now is the time to let the ideas flow and grant applications emerge!
We can even help you shape those ideas and develop these applications. Our division is much more than just a funding source. We offer the research community free access to incredibly powerful resource tools and databases. In fact, there are enough existing data sets—ranging from genetic to epidemiologic data—that you could almost conduct a study without leaving your desk! Here’s a sample of what we have available:
- The International Alzheimer’s Disease Research Portfolio
- The National Cell Repository for Alzheimer’s Disease
- The National Alzheimer’s Coordinating Center
- The Alzheimer’s Disease Sequencing Project.
How is DN working with researchers to move the Alzheimer’s disease research agenda forward?
Since 2012, NIH has hosted a series of international gatherings involving the wider dementia research community—including academia, industry, advocates and caregivers—to gain insights on ways to expand the research agenda. Your input at these meetings is crucial. We used many of your recommendations at the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Summit 2015: Path to Treatment and Prevention and the 2016 Alzheimer’s Disease-Related Summit to help frame our current agenda planning. We’re in the process of planning for the next Summit—watch our landing page for updates.
Communication between division staff and the Alzheimer’s community has been key to identifying and addressing not only gaps in our national research agenda, but also emerging areas for advancing our understanding of dementia. Feel free to e-mail, call, or comment on this post. Seek us out during the many meetings we host or attend nationally and internationally. We welcome your thoughts and ideas and look forward to working with you all to reach the goal of identifying effective treatments for this devastating disease.