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Dr. Basak Receives Grant from DKR Fund

AUSTIN – Sept. 5, 2014 – The Darrell K Royal Research Fund for Alzheimer’s Disease has awarded Dr. Chandramallika Basak of UT Dallas’ Center for Vital Longevity $165,000 in grants over the next three years for her research into mild cognitive impairment in older adults.

Dr. Basak is one of six researchers in Texas (two are from UT Southwestern, making three of the six awardees from Dallas) recommended for a grant by an outside panel of peers led by Ronald C. Petersen, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Mayo Clinic’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, in Rochester, Minn.

The grant will allow Dr. Basak to extend her work on mild cognitive impairment, or MCI, into new populations of older adults. MCI is a stage of cognitive decline where memory problems become noticeable enough to affect daily functioning, yet have not progressed to dementia. More older people with MCI however, compared to those without MCI, go on to develop Alzheimer’s, according to the National Institute on Aging.

“I’m thrilled to be receiving this grant on successful aging from the Darrell K Royal Fund,” Dr. Basak said. “I appreciate the Board of Advisors and their supporters for creating this funding opportunity for early to mid-career investigators so that we can continue to further our independent research agendas.”

The awards, announced Sept. 5, total $825,000 in grant funding for Alzheimer’s research in Texas. Comprised of fundraising efforts from the Darrell K Royal (DKR) Fund’s “Ben-Willie-Darrell 4th & Goal” Gala in 2013, the grant money will go directly to advance scientific research in Texas.

“Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most important public health challenges facing our society,” said Dr. Petersen, also a DKR Fund Scientific Advisor. “The economic and social costs of caring for our afflicted parents and grandparents are much too high, and will continue escalating unless we come up with effective ways to stop and prevent Alzheimer’s.”

At the 2014 gala, DKR Fund advisory board members also presented Dr. Maya Henry (UT Austin), Dr. Steven Patrie (UT Southwestern), Dr. Marie Monfils (UT Austin), Dr. Florian Plattner (UT Southwestern) and Dr. Murat Durakoglugil (UT Southwestern) with grant funds.

The gala featured a special performance by two-time Country Music Award “Entertainer of the Year” and multi-Grammy award-winning country artist Vince Gill & Friends at the Moody Theater. The Fund was founded on the legacy of Darrell Royal, the legendary Texas Longhorns coach of nearly two decades who died from Alzheimer’s. The DKR Fund’s grant initiative supports early-to-mid career Texas-based scientists within 12 years of completion of their terminal degree, and seeks to support collaborative research endeavors across the state of Texas as well as throughout the United States.

“Mild cognitive impairment is an important issue, both because of the problems it brings to sufferers, and its association with Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Michael Rugg, director of the Center for Vital Longevity. “We as scientists are indebted to the resources and support of organizations such as the Darrell K Royal Fund, which are providing important philanthropic initiatives to support research into the aging mind and how to protect it from the ravages of dementia and disease.”

Proceeds from future events will continue to fund novel, innovative and effective approaches to fight against Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders.

“I am humbled by the great work of the DKR Fund in its efforts to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, which has impacted so many of our lives,” said Edith Royal, wife of the late University of Texas legendary and beloved Coach Royal. “I hope that through the continued efforts of this great team, we will find a cure.”

GRANT RECIPIENTS

Dr. Maya Henry is a speech-language pathologist and faculty member in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Texas at Austin. She completed her Ph.D. at the University of Arizona and postdoctoral work at the University of California, San Francisco. Her research interests include the cognitive and neural bases of communication as well as rehabilitation of language and memory disorders resulting from stroke and neurodegenerative disease.

Dr. Chandramallika Basak, an Assistant Professor at the University of Texas at Dallas and a member of UTD’s Center for Vital Longevity, earned her dual MS (Statistics, Experimental Psychology) and Ph.D. (Experimental Psychology) from Syracuse University. Her honors include an Early Career Research Award from Cognitive Ageing Conference, Beckman Institute Post-doctoral Fellowship (2005-2008), Outstanding Dissertation Award and SU Graduate Fellowship (1999-2003).

Dr. Steven Patrie is the John L. Roach Scholar in Biomedical Research and Assistant Professor of Pathology (UT Southwestern Med Center) and Bioengineering (UT at Dallas). He received his Ph.D. at the University of Illinois, Department of Chemistry, in 2004; followed by post-doctorate work at the University of Chicago, Departments of Pathology and Chemistry, 2004-2008. Dr. Patrie’s research is innovating high-resolution proteomics technologies in order to characterize proteome alterations associated with neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration, key contributors to AD pathobiology.

Dr. Marie Monfils is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. She received her Ph.D. in behavioral neuroscience from the Canadian Centre for Behavioral Neuroscience, under the supervision of Bryan Kolb and Jeffrey Kleim. She conducted a postdoctoral fellowship at New York University in Joseph LeDoux’s lab. Dr. Monfils is currently pursuing 3 research streams: (1) investigating post-consolidation manipulations that can persistently modify memories, (2) isolating the mechanisms that underlie social transmission of fear, and (3) examining the interactions between early experience, and fear learning in adulthood.

Dr. Murat Durakoglugil received his M.D. and Ph.D. in Neuropharmacology from Hacettepe University Medical School, Ankara-Turkey. He completed part of his Ph.D. program and then his postdoctoral studies as a British Council Scholar at The Neurosciences Institute, Dundee. Scotland. In 2006 he joined the Department of Molecular Genetics at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas where he currently works as a Research Assistant Professor in the Center for Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases.

Dr. Florian Plattner received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland, and a master’s degree from the European School of Biotechnology, Strasbourg, France. He graduated with a Ph.D. in Neurosciences from the University College of London, London, UK. For his post-doctorate, he joined the UCL Queen Square Brain Bank, London, UK, on a Young Investigator Fellowship from the Alzheimer’s Research Trust. He currently works as an Instructor at UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX, where he investigates molecular mechanism underlying learning & memory and their dysfunction in neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease.