by Julia Diaz
The Phil and Penny Knight Initiative for Brain Resilience is proud to announce the recipients of its inaugural 2022 Innovation and Catalyst Grants.
These 17 groundbreaking research projects will receive a total of $15.5 million to pursue fresh ideas in the science of healthy brain aging and spearhead innovative methods of combating neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
“Together, these innovative proposals will pursue transformative ideas outside the mainstream that will advance our mission to extend the healthy lifespan of the human brain,” said Tony Wyss-Coray, PhD, the D.H. Chen Distinguished Professor of Neurology and Neurological Sciences and Director of the Knight Initiative.
The projects are led by scientists from 12 departments across Stanford’s schools of Medicine, Engineering, and Humanities and Sciences, and include collaborators from an even wider range of disciplines.
“We were looking for bold ideas that transcend the assumptions and biases of the field, and were delighted to receive nearly three dozen excellent applications from some of the best scientists at Stanford, many of whom come from disciplines outside the neurosciences and have never worked in neurodegeneration before.”
Director, Knight Initiative for Brain Resilience
Six research projects have been selected to receive $1.5 million, 3-year Innovation Grants based on their potential to lead to transformative discoveries in the areas of brain resilience and neurodegeneration.
Funded projects will pursue a wide range of approaches, including addressing the role of inflammation and the microbiome in aging and neurodegeneration, exploring how to therapeutically mimic the well-known brain benefits of exercise to promote healthy brain aging, and developing pioneering methods to fight neurodegeneration using engineered immune cells.
The initiative also awarded a new “Innovation 100 Grant” to a groundbreaking project that will leverage the initiative’s new Brain Resilience Laboratory to study the biology of brain resilience in a large cohort of cognitively healthy Costa Rican centenarians.
“People who live past the age of 90 with their cognitive functions intact may hold clues to promoting healthy brain aging for the rest of us,” said Wyss-Coray. “This study presents a unique opportunity to use the advanced research center we are building here at Stanford to understand these remarkable individuals.”
Because of the extraordinary number of promising proposals, the initiative has also elected to fund an additional 10 projects with smaller Catalyst Grants — providing $500,000 over 2 years to kickstart exciting and previously under-explored research directions.
These projects include initiatives to employ machine learning to identify markers of resilience in the brains of older adults; explorations of the roles of endocannabinoids, cellular stress, and sleep circuits in brain aging; and efforts to develop new clinical tools for Parkinson’s disease, traumatic brain injury, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and more.
Innovation Award recipients will be presenting their bold research proposals at the Knight Initiative’s inaugural Brain Resilience Symposium on January 12, 2023.
Registration for this half-day in-person-only event closes December 16.
Collaborator(s): Ivan Soltesz
Collaborator(s): Katrin Andreasson
Collaborator(s): Axel Brunger
Collaborator(s): Aaron Gitler
Collaborator(s): Karen Hirsch
Collaborator(s): Scott Dixon