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Ohio prioritizes brain health research with new state grant

A jigsaw puzzle in the shape of a human head with several pieces missing.

Columbus, Ohio – Ohio Department of Higher Education Chancellor Randy Gardner today announced a new collaboration with Case Western Reserve University (CWRU), the Office of Governor Mike DeWine, and the Ohio Department of Aging (ODA) to advance research related to brain health. 

The Department of Higher Education will provide the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of CWRU with a $2 million Third Frontier Research Incentive grant that will be used for a brain health-related project in the areas of prevention, early intervention, and slowing the progression of disease and disorders. A total of $1 million will be awarded in each of fiscal years 2022 and 2023.

“This new state grant and collaboration with Case Western Reserve University is Ohio’s next step in the advancement of brain health research. Ohio has been a strong innovator in health care, and with this news, will continue to uphold its reputation as we place emphasis on areas of prevention and treatment,” said Governor DeWine. “The potential impact of this study could be game-changing for the millions of Americans who struggle with neurological diseases.”

Brain disease affects one in six people worldwide and includes a wide spectrum of disorders, from stroke and Alzheimer’s disease to multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, and traumatic brain injury. According to a study by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, brain disorders and diseases cost the U.S. economy more than $1.5 trillion annually, and more than 50 million American adults experienced a brain disease or disorder in the past year. Additionally, the Alzheimer’s Association states that deaths from Alzheimer’s disease have increased 145% from 2000 to 2019.

“One in three older adults dies with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia; more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. Dementia has become one of leading causes of deaths among older Americans, and one of the costliest conditions to society,” said ODA Director Ursel J. McElroy. “The time to invest in brain health is now. We are pleased to partner with Ohio’s world class researchers to better inform Ohioans on lifestyle factors, such as exercise and nutrition, and their impact on brain health in preventing and lowering the risk of dementia.

The grant aims to produce brain health research that will result in increased independence, longevity, and vitality for Ohioans. The Cleveland Clinic-led research team will use the funding for a study to examine multidisciplinary lifestyle interventions intended to prevent or delay neurological diseases. The study aims to discover novel indicators, a first step toward the design of pre-disease diagnostics. The research will accelerate biotechnology and lifestyle interventions for health care providers.

“I'm pleased to have Case Western Reserve and Cleveland Clinic – premier research centers in the state and the country – join this collaborative effort to improve brain health for all Ohioans,” said ODHE Chancellor Randy Gardner. “And I commend Governor DeWine and Director McElroy for recognizing the importance of this issue and the Ohio Legislature for making this Third Frontier funding available.”

CWRU was chosen from 11 proposals submitted by top brain health researchers across Ohio’s universities and academic medical centers.

This announcement comes during Older Americans Month, a time when the nation and Ohio celebrate the many ways older adults contribute to, support, and benefit from their communities. Research supported by this grant will help enable older Ohioans to continue to grow, thrive, and contribute throughout their lives. Visit www.aging.ohio.gov/oam to learn more about Older Americans Month and programs and services that support older Ohioans.