Laying foundation for success
The IU School of Medicine-Purdue University Alzheimer's Disease Drug Discovery Center (ADDD Center) held its kickoff workshop in November, bringing researchers together for the first time to set expectations for the next several years. Alan Palkowitz, PhD, who is the principal investigator for the center, says the meeting went very well.
"We're putting plans into action and also creating the right team dynamic that will lay the foundation for success," said Palkowitz. "These kinds of meetings are important to make sure members of our diverse team get to know each other, and also at the same time, begin to see the overarching plan and all the different elements that need to come together as we implement the strategy and make progress toward our goals."
The NIH awarded a grant expected to total $36 million over five years to launch the center in October, with the goal of accelerating development of treatments for Alzheimer's disease. Formal recruitment for key positions is underway and will go on for the next few months, in addition to purchasing needed equipment and research tools.
"Given the very complex nature of the center and all the different activities that will need to be enabled, we have several things to do in order to get underway," said Palkowitz. "It's like building a company from scratch within the university setting."
During the kickoff workshop, researchers talked about the various cores that will work together, including Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, Assay Development and High Throughput Screening, Medicinal Chemistry, and Structural Biology and Biophysics. Palkowitz says it's fantastic to work with researchers across the translational spectrum at IU School of Medicine and Purdue University. He outlined aggressive first year goals, such as developing administrative oversight and infrastructure, putting a data-sharing platform in place and making progress with the project portfolio. That includes identifying 2-3 targets for advanced target validation and one target for enabled drug discovery.
"Those goals are what I'm laser focused on, because they will be the key to our team moving collectively in the right direction, and also build the foundation for expanding disease understanding and creating new therapies," said Palkowitz.
The ADDD center is one of only two institutions like it in the United States, which were selected by the National Institute on Aging to improve, diversify and reinvigorate the Alzheimer's disease drug development pipeline. Palkowitz says his team is ready to take on the challenge.
"Any tough scientific problem can be intimidating, but if you have exceptional colleagues, strong plans and investments, and an environment like this, you can chip away at the challenge and little by little, make progress," said Palkowitz.