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Targeting a prize for Alzheimer's and related dementias research

Dr. Richard Hodes
Richard J. HODES,
Office of the Director (OD)

In December 2016, the President signed the 21st Century Cures Act (P.L. 114-255 (PDF, 973K))—legislation that included many components relevant to the National Institutes of Health (NIH)—into law. One requires the NIH to support and report on prize competitions in biomedical research that can advance a field and potentially improve health outcomes. A number of other NIH Institutes and Centers have used prizes to stimulate research in areas ranging from biosensors and organoid development, to biotech startups. NIA now stands ready to join the action, by initiating the first step in a prize for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and related dementias (ADRD) research.

We need your ideas!

A few weeks ago, on November 2, the NIA released a Request for Information (RFI) for the prize. It asks for input from a wide range of stakeholders, including but not limited to researchers, non-governmental organizations, industry, small businesses, individuals and families affected by AD/ADRDs, and the general public.

The request for ideas is wide open, but we thought it might be useful to offer a few of our own to get the conversation started, focused on:

  • Validation of predictors of AD progression
  • A radiotracer to measure in vivo synaptic integrity
  • Low-cost innovation of improving systems of care for AD/ADRD patients and caregivers

We mention these areas not because they are the only ones we are considering as research priorities, but because they represent needs in the field that may be well-suited to a prize model. Many innovative concepts are certainly worthy of support, but it may be that there are other mechanisms of funding that the NIA could use to target a particular area of research (for example, a funding opportunity announcement).

What other suggestions do you think lend themselves to the competitive environment of a monetary prize? Remember, the only limitation for the RFI is that feedback should be relevant to AD/ADRD research; it does not apply in this case to direct provision of dementia care, management, or services.

How to get started

If you’re stumped as to where to start, or how to identify gaps in what we and other NIH Institutes and Centers are already doing, we have many resources that may provide useful background information:

If you have questions about this RFI, or input that you’d like to submit, please email All prize input or feedback must be received by 11:59:59 pm (ET) on December 31, 2017. We look forward to hearing from you.


Submitted by Leonard Hayflick on November 15, 2017

Because Alzheimer's disease, like other major age associated diseases, is by definition age associated, it seems logical to ask: "Why does the NIA not support to any meaningful extent research on the fundamental biology of aging? It is possible, but not emphasized by NIA, to argue convincingly that because old cells are more likely to have the milieu in which age associated diseases originate, then why does that milieu receive microscopic support compared to support for age associated diseases like AD?

L. Hayflick, Founding Member of the NIA Council and Chairman of its first Executive Committee.

Submitted by Robin Barr on December 01, 2017

In reply to by Leonard Hayflick

Dr Hayflick:
We sincerely hope that the new funds bestowed by the U.S. Congress on Alzheimer's research will open up further avenues that do address the connections among cellular aging—including organelles—and Alzheimer's and other dementias. In addition, we have recently expanded the community’s interest in basic aging research by highlighting its potential in biomedicine, through the creation of the Geroscience Interest Group. The organization encompasses 21 NIH institutes and has been responsible for a significant expansion of research into the molecular and cellular basis for age-related diseases covered by other Institutes.