Roberta Diaz Brinton, holder of the R. Pete Vanderveen Endowed Chair in Therapeutic Discovery and Development, is proving why she was named a “best mind” by U.S. News & World Report in 2004. Five years later, Brinton is still earning numerous awards and support for her groundbreaking research.
In addition to grants from the National Institutes of Health, Brinton and her lab have received support from multiple foundations.
Their research has advanced at an accelerated pace because of support from the National Institutes on Aging, the Kenneth T. and Eileen L. Norris Foundation, the L.K. Whittier Family Foundations, the Alzheimer’s Drug Development Foundation, the National Institute on Aging, the Alzheimer’s Association and the Jane and Gale Bensussen Translational Research Fund.
“The support has made it possible for us to make quantum leaps in our research that have resulted in discovery of factors that lead to Alzheimer’s disease and the development of therapeutics to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s,” Brinton said.
The quantum leaps recently earned Brinton the 2009 North American Menopause Society/Wyeth Pharmaceuticals SERM Award. The award, handed out at the Menopause Society’s 20th annual meeting in San Diego, recognizes Brinton’s research to develop brain selective estrogen-receptor modulators for menopausal women.
Brinton and her team are generating alternatives to estrogen hormone replacement therapy. The molecules are designed to prevent a decline in cognitive function in postmenopausal women, without increasing risk of cancer.
Brinton’s research and therapeutic development is particularly important as 68 percent of those living with Alzheimer’s disease are women. “If no effective preventive therapeutics are developed, projections indicate that within 42 years, one in 45 Americans will be afflicted with Alzheimer’s,” she said. “Our goal is to translate our scientific understanding of how the brain generates cognitive function and protects itself against Alzheimer’s into therapeutics that prevent and treat the disease.”
Her research already has unlocked the potential of Allopregnanolone, a naturally occurring neurosteroid, to generate new neurons in mice with Alzheimer’s, reversing learning and memory deficits. With funding from the Alzheimer’s Drug Development Foundation and the Bensussen Translational Research Fund, Brinton’s research was advanced to the point where the National Institute on Aging awarded her a grant to develop Allopregnanolone as a therapeutic for Alzheimer’s disease. She already has developed a transdermal gel and is now working on developing a nasal spray. All of this is in preparation for the ultimate test for a new compound that requires clinical trials and review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Brinton recently became a member of the National Institute of Mental Health Board of Scientific Councilors and the Society for Neuroscience Board of Councilors. At USC, she directs Science, Technology and Research, a science education outreach program for high school students, and the Center for Scientific Translation at the Los Angeles Basin Clinical Translational Science Institute.
Brinton has published more than 100 scientific reports and serves on advisory boards for the National Institute of Mental Health, Alzforum, the Alzheimer Drug Discovery Foundation and the Society for Neuroscience. She is also the co-founder of a biotechnology company and is a patent holder for several therapeutics.
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