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From Big Data to Precision Cures

Rui Chang, Ph.D., faculty member in the Center for Innovation in Brain Science and associate professor in the department of neurology in the College of Medicine – Tucson has been awarded a $1.6 million grant from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) of the National Institutes of Health.

The two-year grant will advance a project that will apply a predictive computational systems biology approach to identify patient-specific therapeutictargets and evaluate the effectiveness and safety of drug combinations for Alzheimer’s disease.

 The project will screen for small-molecules and repurpose FDA-approved, investigational and experimental drug or drug combinations for Alzheimer’s disease, utilizing big data to capture the complexity of neurodegenerative diseases, which are driven by an array of factors including genetics, aging, gender, environment and disease stage.

 “We’re able to go from patients to the single cell level and use predictive models to integrate data that, through this grant, now allows us to identify and validate key therapeutics in a cell-type specific way across the spectrum of age-associated neurodegenerative diseases,” says Rui Chang, Ph.D., principal investigator for the study.

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, which currently affects 44 million people worldwide, and is expected to increase to 75 million people by 2030. In the 21st century, there is no cure for a single neurodegenerative disease.

“Dr. Chang’s work is critical to our quest to cure Alzheimer’s disease , said Roberta Diaz Brinton, Ph.D., director of the Center for Innovation in Brain Science.  His research is leading us to a much deeper understanding of the complex biological networks involved in Alzheimer’s disease which will ultimately form the foundation of precision medicine to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s.”

Chang’s systems biology perspective, which takes into account the variety of intrinsic and extrinsic factors associated with health and disease, has the potential to provide the identity of future therapeutic targets required to diminish or prevent Alzheimer’s.

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The Center for Innovation in Brain Science (CIBS) at the University of Arizona is addressing the challenge that, in the 21st century, there is not a single cure for a single neurodegenerative disease and is focused on four age-associated neurodegenerative diseases: Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis and ALS.

© 2021 Center for Innovation Brain Science. University of Arizona Health Sciences.