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IU School of Medicine’s Bruce Lamb named BioCrossroads’ 2023 Watanabe Life Sciences Champion



Researcher has contributed on a global scale to efforts to overcome Alzheimer’s disease

INDIANAPOLIS (Nov. 9, 2023) — The BioCrossroads Board of Directors today named Bruce T. Lamb, PhD, as the recipient of the 2023 August M. Watanabe Life Sciences Champion of the Year Award. Lamb is the executive director of the Stark Neurosciences Research Institute at Indiana University School of Medicine and co-director of the Neurosciences Institute, a partnership between Indiana University Health and IU School of Medicine.

The prestigious honor, named in tribute to BioCrossroads’ late Chairman August Watanabe, was given to Lamb at today’s Indiana Life Sciences Summit in recognition of his globally significant research into the causes of and potential treatments for Alzheimer’s disease as well as his many years of advocacy to increase research funding and raise awareness for challenges the disease brings to families and caregivers.

“As we were planning our 2023 Life Sciences Summit, which focuses on Indiana’s globally significant work related to Alzheimer’s disease, one name kept coming up as the catalyst or force behind much of the progress being made: Dr. Bruce Lamb,” said Dan Peterson, chair of the BioCrossroads Board of Directors. “It was clear who had earned our annual Watanabe award.”

More than 6 million Americans 65 and older have Alzheimer’s disease, and the number of Hoosiers with Alzheimer’s is expected to increase 18 percent between 2020 and 2025. Several Indiana researchers and thought leaders are on the forefront of the battle to find a cure for people living with Alzheimer’s, as well as to support those who care for them. The Summit brought dozens of leaders, including Lamb, together to discuss how work being done in Indiana is contributing significantly to progress in both areas.

Lamb, an IU Distinguished Professor, oversees Stark Neurosciences Research Institute, a collaborative team of more than 100 faculty investigators from IU with a collective $75 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in nine research interest groups—addiction, neurodegenerative disorders, neurodevelopment, advanced imaging, ocular neurobiology, pain, psychiatric disorders, spinal cord and brain injury, and stem cell research. In 2010, when funding for Alzheimer’s research was challenging, he and the Alzheimer’s Association recruited 60 Alzheimer’s researchers from across the country to participate in a relay-style bicycle ride spanning 4,500 miles from San Francisco to Capitol Hill. Along the way, they collected 110,000 signatures from Americans who wanted to see more research funding for Alzheimer’s disease. Since that time, federal funding for Alzheimer’s research has increased more than 700 percent.

Among Lamb’s achievements:

  • Overseeing the growth and development of the Alzheimer’s disease research program at the Stark Neurosciences Research Institute at Indiana University School of Medicine that since Lamb’s arrival in 2016 has grown from approximately $15 million to greater than $70 million today. In 2021, the school received the fourth most funding in the United States from the National Institute on Aging (NIA), the largest branch for Alzheimer’s disease research within the NIH.
  • Leading the Model Organism Development and Evaluation for Late-onset Alzheimer’s Disease (MODEL-AD) Consortium, which received a five-year, $48.8 million grant renewal from the NIA to research treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. The latest funding is a renewal of the original grant program worth $35.8 million. This funding established a unique collaboration between the IU School of Medicine, Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, the University of Pittsburgh and Sage Bionetworks to develop mouse models with genetic mutations similar to those responsible for Alzheimer’s disease in humans and to perform pre-clinical testing with promising therapeutics.
  • Collaborating with researchers from Purdue University to lead the Target Enablement to Accelerate Therapy Development for Alzheimer’s Disease (TREAT-AD) drug discovery center, which is funded by a five-year, $36 million grant from the NIA to discover new therapeutic targets and drugs for Alzheimer’s disease and accelerate development of new treatments.
  • Together with Alan Palkowitz and Tim Richardson of the TREAT-AD Center and Derek Small of Luson Bioventures, launched the Indiana biotechnology company Monument Biosciences, which seeks to leverage exciting discoveries from the TREAT-AD Center and the Stark Neurosciences Research Institute into new therapeutic targets for Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Leading a recent groundbreaking, collaborative study that shed new light on the genetic underpinnings of Alzheimer’s disease. The study’s paramount importance explains the critical role of microglial immune responses and their potential to impact disease risk, positively or negatively. This discovery promises to reshape the understanding of Alzheimer’s disease and carve a path toward targeted therapeutics.

Lamb began his professional career at Case Western Reserve University and also served at the Cleveland Clinic. He joined IU School of Medicine as executive director of the Stark Neurosciences Research Institute in 2016. His laboratory works on basic and translational science of Alzheimer’s disease, with a focus on animal models of Alzheimer’s disease, discovery of new therapeutic targets, the role of immune pathways in the development and progression of Alzheimer’s disease, and the role of traumatic brain injury as an environmental modifier for the development of Alzheimer’s pathologies. In 2020, Lamb became co-director of the IU School of Medicine-IU Health Neuroscience Institute, which combines clinical care, research and education across all areas of neuroscience.

Lamb is actively involved in advocacy for increased research funding for the disease and has received multiple honors including the National Civic Award and the Zaven Khachaturian Lifetime Achievement Award from the Alzheimer’s Association. He is also a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He serves on the Alzheimer’s Association Board of Directors and chairs the organization’s Medical and Scientific Advisory Group, while also serving on the Indiana chapter board.

Lamb received his bachelor’s degree from Swarthmore College and his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania prior to a post-doctoral fellowship at Johns Hopkins University.

Read about previous August M. Watanabe Life Sciences Champion of the Year award winners here.

About BioCrossroads: BioCrossroads, is the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership’s (CICP) initiative to grow, advance and invest in the life sciences. It is a public-private collaboration that supports the region’s existing research and corporate strengths while encouraging new business development. BioCrossroads invests capital and provides support to life sciences businesses, launches new life sciences enterprises (including the Indiana Health Information Exchange, OrthoWorx and the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute,) expands collaboration and partnerships among Indiana’s life science institutions, promotes science education and markets Indiana’s life sciences industry.

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