(Nov. 5, 2018) -- To expand the understanding and explanation of Alzheimer’s disease, Austin-based business leader James Truchard, retired president and CEO of National Instruments, has given a $5 million gift to the UTSA College of Sciences to establish the Oskar Fischer Project. The initiative will engage the world’s brightest minds in a comprehensive literature review with the goal of synthesizing that information into one simple explanation for the cause of Alzheimer’s disease. The challenge was announced today during the Society for Neuroscience’s annual meeting, an international gathering of nearly 30,000 scientists taking place through Nov. 7 in San Diego.
The Oskar Fischer Prizes will include a grand prize of $2 million, two second place prizes of $500,000 each and four third place prizes of $250,000 each. Collectively, the monetary awards are the world’s largest prizes of their kind.
Through personal research, Truchard, 75, was introduced to the work of Oskar Fischer (1876-1942), a Jewish pioneer in neuroscience who studied dementia at the same time as Alois Alzheimer. In 1900, Fischer began working at Charles University’s German University, based in Prague. His research led to the identification of senile plaques (then called neuritic plaques), the signature lesions of Alzheimer’s disease.
Fischer hypothesized that the plaques were associated with presbyophrenia, then characterized as a form of senile dementia marked by memory loss, memory distortions and disorientation. He published on 12 patients with plaques and tangles, protein strands that appear during Alzheimer’s disease, in 1907, the same year that Alzheimer published on one patient with early onset Alzheimer’s.
Fischer remained at the German University until he was removed in 1939. In 1942, he was sent to the Small Fortress, a Gestapo prison, where he died one day later.
“A century has passed since Oskar Fischer’s seminal work, and tens of billions have been spent around the world on research and potential cures. Over 130,000 research papers have been published and yet no definitive explanation and cure for Alzheimer’s has been found,” said Truchard. “We need to look at Alzheimer’s as a big complex puzzle with a missing piece. We need a brilliant individual who can take all of the pieces and consider what each offers, and then develop one explanation that fits because it pulls all of the pieces together and makes the puzzle whole.”
According to the World Alzheimer Report 2018 by Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI), an estimated 50 million people worldwide are living with dementia at a cost of $1 trillion to the global economy. That population is expected to more than triple by the year 2050, according to ADI, which also reports that the global ratio of publications on neurodegenerative disorders versus cancer is just one to 12.
“The Oskar Fischer Project will take a new systems approach to the research on Alzheimer’s, building on the work Oskar Fischer started over a century ago,” said George Perry, chief scientist of the UTSA Brain Health Consortium. “Jim Truchard’s generous gift will create an international forum to assess that work and bring forward an explanation that will advance society’s understanding of the disease.”
UTSA, a world leader in brain health research, will incubate the two-year challenge. In the UTSA Brain Health Consortium, 38 of the nation’s brightest scientists are engaged in research on brain mechanisms and therapeutics. UTSA researchers have expertise in neurodegenerative disease, brain circuits and electrical signaling, traumatic brain injury, regenerative medicine and stem cell therapies, medicinal chemistry and drug design, neuroinflammation, and psychology.
“Through Jim Truchard’s support, the Oskar Fischer Project will accelerate our shared mission of unraveling the mysteries of neurodegeneration through engagement with the smartest thinkers around the world,” said UTSA President Taylor Eighmy.
Truchard added, “I truly believe that Alzheimer’s disease is multifaceted; it’s about lifestyle, heredity and brain regression. It’s important to look at all possible solutions. This contest will bring together the world’s best minds to consider the entire story.”
UTSA will work closely with an interdisciplinary committee of outstanding scientists from Texas to award the Oskar Fischer Prizes. The call for proposals will open in February 2019 and will continue through the two-year term of the project.
Emerging artists work in the full range of traditional methods and materials as well as in interdisciplinary and new media. Themes range from social and cultural critique to investigations that are challenging and exquisite explorations in creative form and image.UTSA Art Gallery, Arts Building, Main Campus
Juan Vallejo’s art conveys his experience as a childhood migrant worker. Opening reception: Thurs, Dec. 5, 6–9 p.m. Free and open to the public.UTSA Terminal 136, Blue Star Arts Complex, 136 Blue St., San Antonio
Portions of Cook Road will be closed for construction related to the new Student Success Center project and Americans with Disabilities Act sidewalk upgrades.Cook Road, Main Campus
Out of the violence comes a silence, then a song. Thus begins an extraordinary night of camaraderie, music and peace. A remarkable true experience, told in the words and songs of the men who lived it. UTSA partners with The Public Theater for this event. Contact the theater at (210) 458-3288 for scheduling requests.Buena Vista Theater, Downtown Campus
Forty-six modular units will be delivered to Main Campus as part of the new Student Success Center project. The units will enter campus at Brennan Avenue and will travel to their final destination, south of the North Paseo Building and Graduate School and Research Building via Tobin Avenue, Bauerle Road and Devine Avenue.Brennan Avenue, Tobin Avenue, Bauerle Road, Devine Avenue, Main Campus
Enjoy two classic holiday performances. Children’s Ballet of San Antonio will present two of The Nutcracker. Our Lady of Guadalupe Church will perform a traditional Pastorela play, a morality tale about shepherds going to Bethlehem and the snares the devil uses to dissuade them. Performances are included with regular ITC admission.UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures, 801 E. César E. Chavez Blvd., San Antonio
Celebrating graduating students from the College of Engineering and the College of Liberal and Fine Arts. Guest speaker: Susan Pape '86, chairman of the San Antonio Express-News.Alamodome, 100 Montana St., San Antonio
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