Alzheimer’s disease research at the University of Michigan (U-M; Ann Arbor, Michigan) is getting a $10 million boost: a major grant that will fund a broad array of efforts aimed at finding and fighting the causes of the disease and other memory conditions.

The National Institute on Aging (NIA) part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH; both Bethesda, Maryland) will officially award a five-year grant to U-M’s Michigan Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (MADRC). For the last 16 years, MADRC has been the only federal Alzheimer’s disease center in Michigan; it is currently one of only 33 nationwide.

The new money will continue to fund the center’s Memory and Aging Project (UM-MAP), which is a long-term study on memory, aging and dementia. Vital information gathered from this study over the last 15 years has allowed researchers to gain new insights into Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders, the university said.

The money also will fund studies that test new treatments and ideas on how to prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. U-M researchers are currently seeking participants for studies of new medications, an experimental “Alzheimer’s vaccine” approach and memory-protecting agents.

The grant also will support a special effort to encourage more participation in studies by African-Americans, Hispanics and Asian-Americans, so that research results better represent the entire American population. Older people who do not have memory loss or dementia are also needed for studies, to act as comparisons and to help researchers understand the aging brain better.

Several scientific research projects also will receive funding through the new grant, including advanced brain imaging studies that may lead to better ways of diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease and predicting its progression. Laboratory research on a potential way to disable a key Alzheimer’s protein also will receive funding.

“This grant will support five distinct cores, or groups of researchers, from around the University, as well as three very exciting projects,” says MADRC director Sid Gilman, MD, the William Herdman Professor of neurology at the U-M Medical School. “The entire effort integrates with other U-M Alzheimer’s disease activities, including comprehensive clinics for patients and our participation in national studies.”

About 4.5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease – a number that’s expected to rise to 10 million in the next 25 years. That prediction creates a critical need for more research on all forms of dementia, which include not only Alzheimer’s disease but other conditions that impair memory, thinking ability and language.

MedCath (Charlotte, North Carolina) and Benefis Healthcare (Great Falls, Montana) reported a strategic alliance to grow and enhance Benefis’ cardiovascular services, culminating in a new heart tower to be built on the east campus of Benefis Healthcare. The agreement, which has been approved by the boards of MedCath and Benefis, includes a multiple-stage development plan for Benefis, the largest hospital in Montana.

MedCath will immediately begin managing Benefis’ existing cardiovascular services and will coordinate recruiting activities to increase the number of cardiologists in the Great Falls market to better meet the need for cardiovascular services in Great Falls and the surrounding region.

MedCath also will begin to work with Benefis on the design and development of a new tower that will include the new heart hospital to be located on the Benefis East Campus, which will be managed by MedCath. Under terms of the agreement, MedCath will enter into contractual arrangements with Benefis Healthcare, which will create a joint venture upon completion of the new heart tower building. MedCath anticipates that its investment in the joint venture will range between $9 million and $11 million.

Construction of the heart tower, which is anticipated to begin in 18 to 24 months, and formation of the joint venture, which is anticipated to occur in approximately 36 months, are subject to closing conditions and to all applicable Montana law and regulations being satisfied.

In other grants/contracts news:

• Medwave (Danvers, Massachusetts), which focuses on sensor-based, non-invasive blood pressure measuring solutions, reported that it has signed a new agreement with Amerinet (St. Louis), a leading health care group purchasing organizations.

Amerinet and Medwave have had a successful contractual relationship since April 2001 when Medwave signed the initial agreement covering its Vasotrac APM205A Continual Non-invasive Blood Pressure Monitor and its Vasotrax Handheld Blood Pressure Monitor.

Since then, the Vasotrac DS APM205A Continual Non-invasive Blood Pressure Monitor, which utilizes a disposable sensor, was added to the list of Medwave products available to Amerinet members, along with enhanced features and functionality of the Vasotrac monitors. Under the renewed agreement, Amerinet members continue to have access to Medwave’s blood pressure monitoring solutions for a multitude of clinical environments where clinicians face challenges with conventional blood pressure technology applications.

IRIS International (Chatsworth, California) said the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) of the U.S. Department of Commerce has awarded second year funding to the company’s Advanced Digital Imaging Research subsidiary for the “3-D Face Recognition for Airport Security Screening” program.

NIST performs periodic progress evaluations and has decided to continue funding the project based on ADIR’s progress to date, the company said.

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