Center for Alzheimer's Disease Research

Innovation Awards

Bringing bold ideas to life


Through an innovation awards program, the Robert J. and Nancy D. Carney Institute for Brain Science will provide $232K in seed funding for new high-impact research in Alzheimer’s disease.

In 2014, the Carney Institute launched the Zimmerman Innovation Awards in Brain Science to support early-stage research projects that are too risky and new to attract external funding but have great potential to advance science and benefit society. From that wider pool of funding, a certain amount is earmarked annually to support projects addressing Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. 

Defining the contribution of ovaries to the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease

Immunofluorescence microscopy images of mouse ovaries (left) and mouse hippocampus (right)

Investigators: Richard Freiman, professor of molecular biology, cell biology and biochemistry, professor of obstetrics and gynecology, and Gregorio Valdez, GLF Translational Associate Professor of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry (MCB) and Co-Director of the MCB Graduate Program

Women are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease as men. Yet, there is a dearth of information about the relationship between female sex characteristics and the onset and progression of the disease. Freiman and Valdez will run an integrative series of pilot studies with mice to define whether changes in the ovary contribute to the onset and progression of Alzheimer's disease. One group of experiments will examine the ovaries prior to, at the onset and during the progression of pathology in diverse mouse models of Alzheimer’s; the other group will examine the onset and severity of Alzheimer’s in mice with and without healthy ovarian functions. By studying the integration of the brain and ovaries, their project will not only contribute to potential therapeutic opportunities that prevent or slow a devastating neurodegenerative disease in women, but it will also address the imminent need to improve health-related research inequities between women and men. 

Sleep in adolescents at genetic risk for Alzheimer's Disease: a missing link to early life detection

A young teen research subject asleep in the E.P. Bradley Hospital Sleep Research Laboratory

Investigators: Jared Saletin, assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior, and Mary Carskadon, professor of psychiatry and human behavior

Saletin and Carskadon seek to test an intriguing new possibility: whether alterations in brain and behavioral sleep-related mechanistic markers are already present early in life in adolescents at genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Although adolescence is too early to express symptoms or visible plaques, early life consequences of the gene APOE4 have been observed in sleep-related phenotypes including hippocampus structure, memory and IQ. Thus, early changes in sleep — and potentially in brain makers of sleep-related glymphatic flow — may occur in at-risk youth. If findings in Saletin and Carskadon’s pilot project support this premise, they will open the door for early sleep-focused intervention long before Alzheimer’s symptoms emerge. 

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“The Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research is a vital and growing part of Carney. This year’s awardees are truly thinking outside the box: addressing gender equity in health-related research, and developing approaches for very early identification of people at risk for Alzheimer's disease while still in their teens. Proposals like these are integral to our goal to become a hub for transformative Alzheimer’s research.”

Diane Lipscombe Reliance Dhirubhai Ambani Director of the Carney Institute and Interim Director of the Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research
Diane Lipscombe