New Director for Brain Aging Center
Neuroscientist Dr. Frank LaFerla has been recently named to serve as Director of the Institute for Brain Aging and Dementia (IBAD), in the UC Irvine William J. Gillespie Neuroscience Research Facility.
The cutting-edge research institute focuses primarily on Alzheimer’s disease (a neurodegenerative disease that contributes to memory loss) and related dementias such as Frontotemporal dementia, Lewy body dementia, and Down syndrome. Researchers in the institute also work on Huntington’s disease (a type of neurological disorder) and provide opportunities to participate in new clinical drug trials. LaFerla will succeed founding director Dr. Carl Cotman.
Vice Chancellor for Research Dr. Susan Bryant appoints directors of organized research such as IBAD. A prominent researcher of Alzheimer’s disease, LaFerla may be a promising selection.
“I have had extensive administrative experience, including serving as the director of the interdepartmental neuroscience program (INP). In addition, my prior experience as co-director and before that as associate director of IBAD helped prepare me for the position of Director,” LaFerla said.
LaFerla hopes to translate discoveries at the lab bench to clinical offerings. His short-term plans are to increase the branding of IBAD, particularly among the local community, and to develop new media, including state-of-the-art videos and publications targeting the general public. This will help the institute increase their donor base while offering hope that there can be cures for such neurodegenerative diseases. His long-term plans include developing a new IBAD building on campus, which will be one of the few buildings devoted exclusively to research and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease nationwide. However, the economic crisis has caused the progress of the new building to proceed slowly.
“We are currently conducting a feasibility study to determine if there is enough support among our donor base to go forward with this endeavor. As you can imagine, in this economical climate, we are trying to be as conservative as possible and make sure that we do our homework,” LaFerla said.
Since LaFerla is looking to increase clinical offerings, he hopes to recruit new faculty to the campus who are interested in neurodegenerative disorders, particularly those focused on clinical science. Yet, that goal hinges on the timetable of the new building.
“Right now, our primary clinical service is related to diagnosis of memory-related problems and enrolling subjects in either clinical trials or research studies. There is a need to provide care to manage the disease (after the initial diagnosis). We hope that the new building will provide us with the facilities to be able to conduct these type of clinical services,” LaFerla said.
If the institute is successful in building the new IBAD facility, LaFerla hopes that it can also expand clinical trials to Huntington’s and other degenerative conditions such as inclusion body myositis, the most common age-related muscle disease.