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USC Scientist Recognized for Alzheimer’s Research

USC Scientist Recognized for Alzheimer’s Research
Liqin Zhao, a research assistant professor at the USC School of Pharmacy

“Perspectives in Alzheimer Science,” a report released by the Alzheimer’s Association, the leading health organization in Alzheimer’s care and the largest private, nonprofit funder of Alzheimer’s research, highlights the work of Liqin Zhao, a research assistant professor at the USC School of Pharmacy.

The article recognizes Zhao’s Alzheimer’s Association-funded research on phytoestrogens that resulted in the discovery of the phyto-beta-SERM formulation currently being tested in a clinical trial funded by the National Institute of Aging.

“No words can describe how grateful I am for the initial grant I received from the Alzheimer’s Association, which allowed me to pursue my own ideas,” Zhao said.

In the article, Zhao explains that her interest in Alzheimer’s research was sparked when a friend of hers was struggling with his father’s mental deterioration caused by the disease. “Conversations with my friend solidified my passion for Alzheimer’s research and finding a cure so others would not experience the emotional struggles my friend had experienced,” she said.

Zhao was able to begin the research in 2005 through a new investigator research grant provided by the Alzheimer’s Association.

Zhao worked to identify and test different phytoestrogens with the goal of developing a formulation that would be a safe and effective alternative to estrogen therapy. Her bench research led to the discovery of phyto-beta-SERM, a now-patented formulation.

The discovery led to a National Institute of Aging grant that takes the formulation she identified into clinical trial. Lon Schneider, professor at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, is principal investigator on the clinical trial. Co-investigators are Zhao and Roberta Diaz Brinton, holder of the R. Pete Vanderveen Endowed Chair in Therapeutic Discovery and Development. The clinical trial will explore the pharmacokinetics and efficacy of the formulation in the prevention and treatment of menopause and age-associated memory decline.

“Alzheimer’s is an awful disease, and there’s no cure for it,” Zhao said. “I hope our research can lead to a breakthrough to fill the gap.”

In August, Zhao received a second grant from the Alzheimer’s Association, an investigator-initiated research grant that focuses on the insulin-degrading enzyme and its possible role as a link between menopause, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

The report can be viewed at http://www.alz.org/research/video/year_in_alzheimers_science.asp

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USC Scientist Recognized for Alzheimer’s Research

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