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UCI MIND Annual Report 2020: Excellence through Adversity

UCI MIND Annual Report

2020: Excellence through Adversity

Dear Friend of UCI MIND,

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every facet of life, especially for families enduring Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. In 2020 alone, deaths due to Alzheimer’s increased 16% in the United States. Caregivers were forced to adapt how they manage care and cope with burden, while many endured painful separation from loved ones. Researchers faced delays and challenges in continuing our work. Yet, the past year has further ignited in us an urgency to discover solutions for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias and improve the lives of those affected.

In response to the pandemic, UCI MIND adapted to meet the needs of our community and to continue our critical research and education mission, while prioritizing the safety of our participants and their families. We launched virtual cognitive assessments for our hallmark Longitudinal Study, as well as a new dedicated webpage to communicate updates to research participants and family members. We developed caregiver-focused educational resources in multiple languages to help guide families through this unprecedented journey. And our annual events, including our research conference and gala, shifted to virtual formats for the first time in their decades-long histories.

Despite the challenges that came, 2020 also marked a year of achievements for UCI MIND. We reached our silver anniversary as an Organized Research Unit, founded by Carl Cotman, PhD in 1995. We were awarded a $14.4 million grant from the National Institute on Aging to sustain our federally designated Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, led by Dean Frank LaFerla, PhD. Our investigators continued to make key discoveries in the areas of animal models, cellular changes, and human biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease, the oldest old, and Down syndrome. NIH grant funding to UCI MIND investigators has never been higher in the Institute’s illustrious history.

Philanthropic support has also played a critical role in our 2020 successes:

  • Our Women’s Initiative, in partnership with Maria Shriver’s Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement, awarded two new grants to UCI investigators to study sex and gender disparities in Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Our Innovative Research Initiative supported three novel projects investigating the role of hearing loss in Alzheimer’s disease, the potential therapeutic qualities of a parasitic infectious agent, and a systems biology approach to investigating disease mechanisms in Down syndrome brain tissue.
  • We launched the UCI MIND Research and Mentorship Program (RAMP) that pairs medical students with faculty mentors to inspire future careers in dementia research and care with support from our philanthropic partners Dr. Lorna Carlin and the nonprofit HFC led by Seth Rogen and Lauren Miller Rogen.

For UCI MIND, 2020 was a year of adaptations and adversity, but also great progress thanks to our strong community partnerships and dedicated research team. In recognition of our shared mission, and with gratitude for our community of advocates, philanthropists and research participants, we thank you for your support.

Joshua D. Grill, PhD
Director, UCI MIND

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In this Annual Report…

page 6

Orange County’s only NIH-funded Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center

Led by Frank LaFerla, PhD, dean of the UCI School of Biological Sciences and director of the UCI Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, a multidisciplinary team of UCI MIND investigators were awarded a five-year, $14.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to sustain critical research and education as Orange County’s only Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC)….

page 10

New global multicenter clinical trial

Worldwide, nearly 50 million people have dementia and the cases are expected to triple in the coming decades unless researchers discover effective preventions or disease-delaying therapies…

page 15

Promoting diverse leadership in clinical trials

UCI MIND, along with experts from across the country, launched a unique and comprehensive course last fall to educate and diversify the next generation of leaders in clinical trials for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias…

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