Thursday, July 15, 2010
The Alzheimer's Breakthrough Ride
It was a warm, humid, Sunday morning last summer in Cleveland and I decided to go on my usual 30 mile bike ride through the Chagrin River valley. I had just returned from reviewing Alzheimer’s disease research grants for the National Institute on Health and felt increasingly perplexed and concerned regarding the declining funding for Alzheimer’s disease research through the National Institute on Aging (NIA). The percentile of Alzheimer’s disease grants funded through the NIA had dramatically dropped from 2008 to 2009, with further declines anticipated in 2010. Because of this, many Alzheimer’s disease research laboratories were forced to contract in size and some research labs were forced to close all together. Even worse, this meant that critical research that could provide new insights into disease mechanisms and potential therapies for the disease would not be conducted. Given the dramatically increasing incidence of Alzheimer’s disease from the 5.3 million people currently afflicted with the disease to the projected 13.5 million people with Alzheimer’s in 2050, certainly more research is required, not less.
As I started up the first major hill of the ride, my legs burned, my heart pounded and my head ached with indecision about what could be done to bring attention to this critical and unmet need. About half way up the hill, I wasn’t sure I would make it to the top. I finally stood up, slowed down, weaved my way from side to side and inched my way upwards through the steepest grades of the hill. As I reached the top, I realized that a different approach was needed to bring attention and funds to Alzheimer’s disease research, something that involved researchers from across the country united in their commitment to fighting the disease. While researchers frequently complain about funding rates, grant and manuscript reviews and bureaucratic roadblocks to conducting research, rarely do we make the time and effort to raise public awareness of research and advocate for increases in funding. Now is the time, I realized through my heavy, labored breathing, to step up and ride the extra mile and climb the next hill. What if Alzheimer’s researchers from across the country could unite and ride their bikes, from the west coast to the east coast through small towns and big cities, along the oceans and over mountains, reaching out to as many people as possible and finally arriving at the Capitol. Along the way, researchers could convince Americans of the vital role research must play in fighting Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, researchers would get signatures of individuals from across the country in support of increasing funds for Alzheimer’s disease research as proposed in the Alzheimer’s Breatkthrough Act that is currently before congress. It was something that had to be done.
Now, thanks to the involvement of some of the top researchers in the United States and strong organizational support form the Alzheimer’s Association, the Alzheimer’s Breakthrough Ride is a reality. The ride will be starting in July 17th in San Francisco, CA and continuing over 4,000 miles across the country and arriving in Washington, D.C. on September 21st, World Alzheimer’s Day. Today I ask for your support of this important initiative. Get involved, come out to greet and talk with the riders as they come through your community, sign the petition, contact your congressmen and senators and together let’s fight this disease! We have one hardest hill yet to climb and that is Capitol hill.
Please visit alz.org/breakthroughride to learn more and sign the petition.
-Bruce Lamb, Ph.D.