GHR Foundation’s big goal: Prevent Alzheimer’s

Reisa A. Sperling, MD, MMSc, with Fred Miller of the GHR Foundation

As Brigham-led clinical trials test treatments aimed at slowing cognitive decline in those with Alzheimer’s disease, researchers are actively working toward preventing the debilitating condition altogether. In pursuit of this goal, GHR Foundation recently committed $2 million to work led by Reisa A. Sperling, MD, MMSc, director of the Brigham’s Center for Alzheimer Research and Treatment and co-leader of the Davis Alzheimer Prevention Program.

Individuals who develop Alzheimer’s display buildup of amyloid protein deposits in the brain—a hallmark of the disease—up to 20 years before symptoms occur. Sperling is principal investigator of the AHEAD studies, international trials assessing a drug to see if it can prevent or slow disease development in people who show intermediate or elevated levels of amyloid in PET brain scans and blood tests but do not yet experience symptoms of the disease.

We’re thrilled by advances that have come from [Dr. Sperling’s] leadership and hope to inspire others to join us in committing essential funding toward preventing Alzheimer’s entirely.


Sperling and her team want to study people who do not qualify for the AHEAD studies because they have discordant results: Their brain scans do not indicate much amyloid plaque buildup, but their blood tests suggest there may be early amyloid changes. With GHR Foundation’s support, they are launching a new companion project called APEX (Alzheimer’s Plasma Extension) to determine if they can predict who will develop elevated amyloid deposition over the coming years.

“We’re so grateful for GHR’s generosity, which will enable us to enroll up to 1,000 people into the APEX project,” says Sperling, the Remondi Family Distinguished Chair in Neurology. “As we regularly conduct blood tests in these people for four years, we hope to develop new plasma biomarkers to understand who is likely to develop amyloid plaques in the near future and how we might intervene even earlier to prevent its devastating consequences.”

Fred Miller, chief operating officer and managing director of biomedical programs at GHR, says the foundation is enthusiastic about supporting this work and aims to encourage others to make gifts totaling an additional $2 million for the project.

“For years, we’ve admired and supported Dr. Sperling’s innovative Alzheimer’s research,” says Miller. “We’re thrilled by advances that have come from her leadership and hope to inspire others to join us in committing essential funding toward preventing Alzheimer’s entirely.”