By W. Scott Bailey
UT Health San Antonio has taken big strides in its effort to position the Alamo City as a major center for the study of Alzheimer’s and other neurological disorders.
The organization’s new Glenn Biggs Institute for Alzheimer’s & Neurodegenerative Diseases has recruited a leader from one of the nation’s top bioscience hubs to serve as its founding director. It’s also secured tens of millions of dollars in funding support from area companies and philanthropists.
Dr. Sudha Seshadri, who has served as professor of neurology at Boston University since 1998, will lead the Biggs institute. She is expected to officially move into her new role in a few weeks.
Once in place, Seshadri will inherit an institute that’s mustered some major momentum over a relatively short history.
“We are working to recruit both clinicians and researchers,” Seshadri said.
She also noted that work is underway on new clinical trials and research space that should be operational next year. Some of that research will be aimed at prevention.
“I would say we are in the building stage. But there is a lot of synergy, a lot of passion for this effort,” she said. “So we hope to build quickly.”
The institute is named for UT Health San Antonio’s founding development board chairman, who had sought out guidance after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. His ensuing death served as inspiration for UT Health San Antonio President Dr. William Henrich and others to work to position the Alamo City as comprehensive center for neurodegenerative disease research and care.
The institute is currently in refurbished space at UT Health San Antonio’s Medical Arts & Research Center on Floyd Curl Drive. The plan is to ultimately develop a free-standing facility that can serve as the institute’s permanent home.
On Oct. 17, UT Health San Antonio broke ground on a $70.2 million facility near the MARC building that will serve as a new home for the Sam & Ann Barshop Institute for Longevity & Aging Studies.
Henrich said that project will further align talent and infrastructure in a way that allows greater collaboration with other researchers — including those at the Biggs institute.
“There is a real synergy between the study of neurodegenerative diseases and studies which advance the longevity and quality of life,” Henrich said. “The scientists have a lot of overlap. That’s what is so exciting about what is being created here — which we think will ignite even more discovery.”
UT Health San Antonio has already locked in more than $50 million in cash and endowment support for the institute. That funding includes more than $2 million from the John L. Santikos Charitable Foundation for the development of a new nuclear medicine suite, which will aid Alzheimer’s research and care.
“One of the ways in which San Antonio can contribute to the understanding of Alzheimer’s is by studying a uniquely diverse population,” Seshadri said. “We know very little about Alzheimer’s in Hispanics.”