NIH to get more Alzheimer's funding

Greg M. Cooper/AP

The Obama administration wants to add $80 million in spending on Alzheimer’s research next year, bringing the total to $530 million a year in the hopes of heading off what doctors say will be an avalanche of dementia in the coming decades.

President Obama will request $80 million in new research funding in his budget for fiscal 2013, and the National Institutes of Health will immediately direct an additional $50 million to Alzheimer’s research this year, said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

"We can’t wait to confront the growing threat that Alzheimer’s disease poses to American families, and to our nation as a whole,” Sebelius said at a news conference.

Overall, the administration wants $156 million over the next two years to combat Alzheimer’s, Sebelius said. The president's budget will also ask for $26 million in funding to support caregivers, to raise awareness, and to improve outreach.

Experts estimate that more than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer's now and project that figure could more than double by 2050, as the baby-boom generation and those just behind the boomers get older.

“These projections are simply staggering,” NIH Director Francis Collins said in a statement. “This new funding will accelerate NIH’s effort to use the power of science to devlop new ways of helping people with Alzheimer’s disease and those at risk.” HHS said that the money will go to basic research in an effort to find the causes of Alzheimer's in cells, as well as to clinical work on patients.

“The opportunities right now are compelling,” Collins said. The $50 million in new funding will be taken from dollars already appropriated for existing projects, Collins said. For example, some money designated for genome sequencing will be directed toward studying the genetic links between Alzheimer’s disease susceptibility and onset.

Alzheimer's has no cure, and treatments only help during the disease's very early stages.

Alzheimer's advocates praised the new funding but said that the disease still doesn't get the attention it deserves.

"Even with this 10 percent annual increase in the NIH budget for AD research, this disease remains by far the most underfunded when compared to its public-health impact," R. Scott Turner, director of the Georgetown University Medical Center's Memory Disorders program, said in a statement.

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