An institute focusing on the development of new effective treatments for Alzheimer’s Disease has been established by the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

The USC Alzheimer’s Therapeutic Research Institute (USC ATRI) in San Diego will be led by a distinguished Alzheimer’s disease scientist, Paul Aisen, MD.

Aisen is being proposed as professor of neurology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and will lead the institute in pursuit of its mission to accelerate the development of effective treatments for Alzheimer’s disease through innovative, collaborative, multicenter clinical trials.

“Dr. Aisen has been a leading figure in Alzheimer’s disease research for more than two decades, having developed novel methodologies as well as designed and directed many large therapeutic trials,” said Carmen A. Puliafito, MD, MBA, dean of the Keck School of Medicine of USC. “We are proud to have him join USC, where his expertise and leadership will help the Keck School and USC create a leading hub of basic, translational and clinical research in neuroscience and neurological diseases.”

To accomplish this ambitious goal, USC is actively recruiting transformative faculty researchers to focus on the human brain and its role in numerous medical conditions including Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis. These efforts align closely with President Obama’s BRAIN Initiative, announced in April 2013.

The establishment of the USC ATRI with Aisen as director adds a strong clinical research program to complement USC’s existing strengths in Alzheimer’s disease research.

“Keck School of Medicine of USC provides an optimal environment for this research program,” said Aisen. “Close collaboration with Keck investigators, including Drs. Arthur Toga and Paul Thompson at the USC Mark and Mary Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute, Dr. Helena Chui at the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, and Dr. Berislav Zlokovic at the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute, will facilitate rapid progress in data sharing and analytical methods central to the drug development process. USC ATRI will be the clinical outlet for testing of new treatments.”

Aisen received his B.A. in biochemistry and molecular biology from Harvard and his medical degree from Columbia. He completed his residency at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, and then fellowship training in rheumatology at New York University. After serving as chief medical resident at Mount Sinai, he began a solo practice in internal medicine and rheumatology in New York. Aisen joined the faculty of Mount Sinai in 1994 and was recruited to Georgetown University in 1999 as a professor of neurology and medicine. That year, he founded the Memory Disorders Program, a clinical and research program for Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders. He continued basic research studies on therapeutic targets and biomarkers and designed and directed multicenter therapeutic trials. He became vice chair of the Department of Neurology at Georgetown in 2004. From 2007 through 2015, he was professor in the Department of Neurosciences at the University of California, San Diego and director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study.

Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, and it is the only disease among the Top 10 in America that cannot be prevented, cured or slowed, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

— Alison Trinidad and Leslie Ridgeway