CHANGING THE WORLD What your investment in UT makes possible Alzheimer’s mice. This was significant because it showed that the compound is well tolerated in animals. So it works in worms and mice. How about people? “It will take a lot more work to find out,” Martin says. “But if we’re right about this, we could be on the brink of a completely new way to treat Alzheimer’s disease with something that big pharmaceutical companies haven’t yet tried.” At a crossroads with his team’s findings, Martin turned to HornRaiser to share the results and, he hoped, attract some funding to perform more studies. Additional study results will help make a compelling case to granting agencies such as the NIH and various foundations that support research in this area, as well as companies interested in investing in a promising new approach to tackling Alzheimer’s.
Chemists discover a potentially revolutionary advance in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.
D e pa rt m e n t
C h e m i s t ry
has made a
discovery that may lead to a new approach to treat Alzheimer’s disease.” With that intriguing declaration, Professor Stephen Martin launched a HornRaiser campaign this year that in short
order raised more than twice its goal. Small wonder—with a debilitating disease such as Alzheimer’s, any ray of hope is cause for celebration. Martin has given the world something to celebrate.
Above: Professor Stephen
Martin’s research group has developed molecules that target a neural receptor not previously associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Opposite: Martin visits with
June Waggoner, a longtime supporter of his work. CREDITS: iStockPhoto; Kelsey
Evans; Marsha Miller
In recent years, Martin’s lab has received funding from the National Institutes of Health to identify new compounds that might lead to treatments for a variety of diseases. “We have been interested in finding better ways to make complex molecules that occur in nature— especially those that exhibit useful biological activity,” he says. “We discovered one group of novel compounds that may have the power to go after neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. This is an exciting finding because no new drug for this disease has been approved since 2003.” The only drugs available merely treat some symptoms of dementia, not the underlying causes, and these drugs only work for a subset of patients. As Alzheimer’s and related dementia cases grow globally, the world is in desperate need of new and more effective therapeutic approaches that may ultimately lead to a cure. This particular approach started with a tiny worm. Martin and Jim Sahn, a researcher on his team, wondered whether the molecules they
had developed could target a neural receptor not previously associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Aiming to find out, they worked with Professor Jonathan Pierce-Shimomura and his coworker Luisa Scott in the Department of Neuroscience to screen their compounds in a type of worm called C. elegans. Under Martin’s direction, they found that some compounds did in fact reduce neurodegeneration in a worm model of Alzheimer’s disease. This was an astounding discovery, but it was just the beginning. Although simple worms are useful for screening, Martin and Sahn wanted to test their compound in an industry-accepted animal model for the disease. They were thrilled when mice treated with the compound had significantly better cognition than untreated Alzheimer’s disease animals. Subsequent research showed that the compound did not appear to have any adverse effects in healthy mice when they were administered a dose 10 times as great as the initial dose that worked to enhance cognition in the
THE CAMPUS-WIDE IMPACT OF PRESIDENT’S ASSOCIATES
SHINING NEW LIGHT ur group in the
WHY I GIVE
As news of the HornRaiser campaign spread through social media, dozens of individuals from near and far stepped forward, many with gifts in the $25 to $250 range. Encouraged by the outpouring of support, the Darrell K Royal Research Fund for Alzheimer’s Disease contributed nearly $4,500, enough to push past the campaign’s $15,000 goal. Austin’s Edith Royal says her late husband would be proud to support Martin’s work. “Our goal is to be part of the team by doing what we can, when we can, to help those who are working to make great advances in understanding this disease,” she says. June Waggoner of Houston, similarly inspired, pledged a whopping $25,000 to the effort, bringing the total amount raised to $40,315 from 72 donors. Every donation, no matter its size, propels the work forward. “We all want to help eradicate this horrible disease,” says Waggoner, who with her late husband endowed the M. June and J. Virgil Waggoner Regents Chair in Chemistry, which Martin holds. “And Steve’s work holds such promise. There’s no way I was going to sit on the sidelines for such an exciting project.” For updates on Martin’s research, visit sites.cns. utexas.edu/smartin/news. Help support projects such as this one at hornraiser.utexas.edu, UT’s official crowdfunding platform.
ince 1972, the President’s Associates program has provided flexible funds to support UT presidents’ top priorities across campus. While alumni and friends often support specific areas of campus according to their interests, many also join President’s Associates to help advance the overall mission of the university. Several levels of membership are available based on age and annual giving to the Office of the President, making for a diverse group of members. From recent graduates to those who have given their support for decades, the common thread among the more than 700 members is a shared commitment to ensuring that UT remains one of the world’s great public universities. There are opportunities on campus that might be missed if the President’s Office lacked a source of unrestricted funds, says Corby Robertson, BBA ’69, Life Member, Distinguished Alumnus, who, along with his wife, Barbara Robertson, BS ’69, is an Endowment Level member. “The president, being immersed in the day-to-day life of the university, is able to recognize when a timely boost would have an immediate impact, and respond,” Robertson says. Initiatives that receive President’s Associates support include those that: • Recognize and support high-quality teaching and leadership, • Increase competitiveness in graduate education and other areas, and • Enhance the quality of what UT can offer its undergraduates.
Chelsea Rajagopalan, BA ’09, Life Member, and her husband, Keshav Rajagopalan, BA ’10, BS ’10, Life Member, are junior-level President’s Associates who have set up a sustaining monthly gift to the Office of the President. As undergraduates, they observed firsthand the positive effect the program has on campus.
President’s Associates enhance and strengthen the entire university.
“Chelsea and I were student leaders during our time at UT,” Keshav says. “We saw the president use funds to support student events and initiatives, leadership training, and other strategic efforts that benefited the student experience.” Some donors, like Aaron Kozmetsky, MBA ’95, Life Member, and his wife, Tracey, choose to support the university far into the future by including President’s Associates in their estate plans. “No matter what the world looks like after we’re gone, I think it’s safe to say that UT’s presidents will continue to need resources to address whatever challenges and opportunities come up,” says Aaron. “We’re happy to do something now that will help strengthen the university for future generations.” Visit giving.utexas.edu/pa to join President’s Associates.
Changing the World is produced by the University Development Office. Please send your feedback and suggestions to editor Jamey Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more news and information about giving to UT, visit giving.utexas.edu.
s e p t e m b e r | o c t o b e r 2011
Featured in The Alcalde, Sept/Oct 2015