NIH awards $147M to expand diversity in Alzheimer's research project

The National Institutes of Health has awarded a five-year, $147 million grant to the Northern California Institute for Research and Education to expand diversity among participants in the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI).

Michael Weiner, M.D., of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), is the principal investigator for ADNI, which has 60 sites across the U.S. and Canada. He said in a Nov. 1 press release that the latest round of funding doubles the previous funding for the third phase of the study. The institute also partners with UCSF and the San Francisco VA Medical Center.

With the grant, the next phase of the study can expand its participant pool from more than 1,000 people to about 1,500 with at least half coming from underrepresented populations.

“Up until about two years ago, only 10% to 11% of our participants were nonwhite,” Weiner said. “More people of color than white people have comorbidities, like diabetes and hypertension, that result in them being excluded from clinical trials. But if we are to understand Alzheimer’s disease, we must study participants who represent the North American population.”

Clinical trial patients tend to be educated, generally healthy people who do not have suspicion of the medical establishment. 

The study, which began in 2004, is focused on identifying and validating the imaging, genetic and biochemical biomarkers in early detection and tracking of Alzheimer’s while supporting advances in preventing and treating the disorder through new diagnostic methods.

“Some 50% to 60% of new enrollees will be from underrepresented groups, such as Black, Latinx, Asian, Pacific Islander, American Indian, as well as people with a high school education or less,” Weiner said.