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Collaborating to Discover a Biomarker to Diagnose Lewy Body Dementia

Test tubes in a research lab.

The Michael J. Fox Foundation has partnered with the American Brain Foundation, Alzheimer's Association and the American Academy of Neurology to establish the Cure One, Cure Many Award: A research award for early diagnosis of Lewy body dementia. This $3-million, multi-year research award was created to improve the diagnosis of Lewy body dementia (LBD), which causes a progressive decline in cognitive function and is the second most common cause of neurodegenerative dementia, after Alzheimer’s disease. Partnerships like this highlight the interconnectedness of brain diseases.

LBD and other neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease share many similarities, and patients often experience overlapping symptoms — as well as the abnormal synuclein protein clusters called Lewy bodies. As a result, they are often mistaken for one another, which hinders diagnosis, treatment and research.

Currently, LBD can only be definitively diagnosed with a brain autopsy after death. As a result of a delay in diagnosis and misdiagnosis, people with LBD and their caregivers endure daily challenges and uncertainty. “Better biological measures of brain disease are urgently needed to speed therapeutic development and improve care. More resources, research and collaboration are critical toward those goals,” said Todd Sherer, PhD, CEO of The Michael J. Fox Foundation. “Shared pathology across Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia means that better understanding the biology of one can help advance research into the other, growing the impact of this program across diagnostic lines.”

The goal of this award is to attract the best minds in research to find a biomarker (diagnostic test) for LBD. The hope is that this will lead to an accurate method of diagnosing the disease, giving patients and their loved ones clarity about the prognosis. This will also allow researchers to better study LBD and develop effective therapies.

“As an added benefit, it may also increase the understanding of degenerative brain diseases, including Alzheimer's and all other dementia, leading to better diagnosis, improved treatments and effective prevention strategies that may benefit millions of people around the world," said Maria C. Carrillo, PhD, Alzheimer's Association chief science officer.

Proposals for the award will be reviewed by a panel of preeminent scientists. Projects should specifically have the potential to identify one or more biomarkers that can be used to diagnose Lewy body dementia as the underlying cause of cognitive impairment.

“Our holistic approach focuses on building bridges between different brain diseases to break new ground in both research and application,” said Jane Ransom, the American Brain Foundation’s executive director.

Applications for the Cure One, Cure Many Award will open on July 1, 2021. Grant winners will be selected and announced later this year.

Funding for the American Brain Foundation’s 2022 Cure One, Cure Many Award is provided by the Alzheimer's Association and The Michael J. Fox Foundation. The American Academy of Neurology is the American Brain Foundation’s research partner.

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