Award will support research into therapeutic approaches for Alzheimer's disease.
Paul L. Greer, PhD, assistant professor of molecular medicine, is one of 15 young scientists in the chemical and biological sciences who have been named 2019 Searle Scholars. Dr. Greer will receive $300,000 in flexible funding over the next three years to support his study, A Novel Approach to Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease Pathogenesis.
“The goal of our research is to understand what causes Alzheimer’s disease with the hope that this will ultimately lead to new therapeutic approaches for treating this horrible neurodegenerative disorder,” Greer said. “It is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, and the number of cases is expected to nearly triple over the next 30 years. Despite tremendous effort, strategies for treating or preventing the disease are highly limited in both number and efficacy, suggesting that novel approaches are needed.”
Scientists have identified a mutation in the Ms4a family of genes as being one of the leading causes of Alzheimer’s. The Greer lab found that Ms4a genes are expressed in a previously undescribed population of microglia, the resident immune cells of the brain, which evidence suggests play a critical, although somewhat unclear, role in Alzheimer’s pathogenesis. The goal of Greer’s project is to better characterize the role of these cells in the brain under physiological situations and to determine how they influence Alzheimer’s pathology. Greer’s lab hopes to leverage what they know about these cells and Ms4a genes to develop new therapeutic approaches for Alzheimer’s.
“Receiving the Searle grant is critical for the successful implementation of this line of research because it is still in its early stages and obtaining traditional federal funding for it is challenging,” he said. “This money will allow us to pursue our exciting preliminary findings and hopefully develop enough evidence to continue to investigate this moving forward.”
The Searle Scholars Program makes grants to selected universities and research centers to support the independent research of exceptional young faculty in the biomedical sciences and chemistry who have recently been appointed as assistant professors on tenure-track appointments. The 2019 Searle Scholars were selected for their potential to make significant contributions to chemical and biological research over the course of their careers by a scientific advisory board comprising 12 scientists distinguished for their research and leadership across a wide range of fields. This year, 195 applications were considered from recently appointed assistant professors, nominated by 137 universities and research institutions.