FAU Awarded $3 Million for Dementia Prevention Initiative

Dementia Prevention Initiative, Comprehensive Center for Brain Health, Dr. James Galvin, Schmidt College of Medicine

James E. Galvin, M.D., M.P.H., principal investigator and director of FAU’s Comprehensive Center for Brain Health in the Schmidt College of Medicine. (Photo by Alex Dolce)

By gisele galoustian | 3/5/2019

By 2050 about 16 million Americans and 60 million people worldwide will be affected by Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and related disorders. Risk factors for dementia include age, vascular and metabolic conditions, and inflammation. To date, pharmacologic approaches only offer modest benefits to help address one of the world’s most pervasive and devastating disorders.

A leading neuroscientist at Florida Atlantic University’s Schmidt College of Medicine has received a $3 million, three-year grant from The Harry T. Mangurian, Jr. Foundation to expand the scope and reach of the Dementia Prevention Initiative (DPI).

Launched in 2017 with a $1 million grant from The Harry T. Mangurian, Jr. Foundation, FAU’s DPI has received widespread interest and is now a large longitudinal study of brain aging and dementia. This new  grant will enable FAU to continue research and follow patients for an additional three years, to share data with other investigators, to provide training, and to distribute information publicly. 

Developed by James E. Galvin, M.D., M.P.H., principal investigator and director of FAU’s Comprehensive Center for Brain Health in the Schmidt College of Medicine, the DPI uses the latest advances in genetics, biology and the molecular bases of disease and incorporates personalized and tailor-made evaluation and prevention plans to reduce risk. 

In this program, Galvin and his team are examining novel biomarkers and peripheral predictors of disease such as physical performance, retinal imaging using optical coherence tomography, and gait analyses. They also are working with companies to develop novel blood tests to improve diagnosis and prediction. 

“If we can identify changes in physical activity and gait, examine retinal and visual tests as well as blood-based markers, this information may provide insight into those individuals at-risk for disease who are likely to progress to clinically detectable symptoms,” said Galvin.

AD most likely begins years prior to the detection of clinical symptoms, yet preclinical and pre-dementia states are difficult to detect due to the absence of expensive and invasive biomarkers.

“This gift reflects our longstanding confidence in the University’s and the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine’s efforts in dementia prevention research and the resulting personalized treatment plans that Dr. Galvin and his team have developed,” said Stephen G. Mehallis, president of the Harry T. Mangurian, Jr. Foundation. “Moreover, the gift also will enable sharing the information generated from the Dementia Prevention Initiative with investigators from other institutions through hosting events and attracting world renowned scientists.”

Although the single greatest risk factor for AD is age, AD is not inevitable. It is estimated that at age 85 there is a 42 percent risk of developing AD, which means that 58 percent of older adults do not develop dementia, even if amyloid can be detected in the brain. The reasons are unknown, but may be explained in part by a host of modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors. Up to 30 percent of AD cases may be preventable through modification of risk factors and behavioral changes to mitigate the effect of those risk factors that can’t be modified.

Individuals interested in participating in the DPI can call 561-297-0164 or email healthybrain@health.fau.edu for more information.

The Harry T. Mangurian, Jr. Foundation was established by the late Harry and Dorothy Mangurian to provide support to medical, educational and environmental organizations, nationally and internationally. The Mangurians resided in both Ocala and Fort Lauderdale, from where Harry managed his various business interests including real estate development, furniture retailing, professional sports (including ownership of the NBA’s Boston Celtics) as well as Mockingbird Farm, which became a world-renowned thoroughbred racing and breeding operation. Dorothy passed away in 2015 after a long battle with Lewy Body Dementia.