Dr. Joanna Jankowsky, professor of neuroscience at Baylor College of Medicine, has been awarded a Zenith Fellows research grant from the Alzheimer's Association.  

One of the most prestigious awards in Alzheimer’s research, the Zenith Fellows grants support senior scientists who have contributed significantly to the Alzheimer's disease research field, but need support to advance a new idea.

The grant provides Dr. Jankowsky $450,000 in project funding over 3 years to support scientific investigations into the causes and progression of Alzheimer’s with a goal of uncovering potential new therapy targets. Jankowsky’s lab focuses on the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease, meaning what factors influence disease risk and dictate the stereotyped loss of neural circuits needed for memory.

"One of the mysteries of Alzheimer's disease is how some subjects remain cognitive healthy throughout life despite having neuropathology that should otherwise have caused dementia," Jankowsky said. "Colleagues of ours have used large cohort studies to identify gene variants that could explain this resilience. With this Zenith Fellows award, my team and I will examine how one of these genes may protect neuronal connections in aging to preserve cognitive function in models of disease."

Alzheimer’s is a complex, progressive brain disease. Right now there is no treatment that can stop, slow, or prevent its progression. The currently approved Alzheimer’s medications address the worsening of symptoms but are ineffective in changing the disease’s course.

“We must better understand the underlying biology of Alzheimer’s to find new treatments and preventions,” said Richard Elbein, CEO, Alzheimer’s Association Houston & Southeast Texas Chapter. “The Zenith Fellows grants specifically aim to fill this knowledge gap by supporting research on fundamental problems related to early detection, causes, and progression of the disease.”

This latest round of Alzheimer’s Association Zenith Fellows research grants support three scientific investigations totaling $1.35 million. This funding brings the total amount awarded through the program to more than $40 million. The program is funded by members of the Alzheimer’s Association Zenith Society, a group of visionary individuals and organizations that have each committed $1 million or more to the Alzheimer’s Association to support research.

The Zenith Fellows Award Program is part of a larger research funding effort from the Alzheimer’s Association that has awarded more than $435 million to more than 2,900 projects. Alzheimer’s Association funding has led to some of the most important research breakthroughs in dementia science. This includes supporting some of the first Alzheimer’s drug studies and development of the first chemical tracer making it possible to visualize amyloid buildup in the living brain.

Jankowsky also is associate professor of molecular and cellular biology, neurology, and neurosurgery as well as associate director of the graduate program in neuroscience at Baylor. She completed her undergraduate degree at Amherst College in Massachusetts and earned her PhD from the California Institute of Technology. She also completed advanced training from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.