HudsonAlpha hosts neurodegenerative research collaborator

Donor issues match challenge for the M&M Program

There are hundreds of neurodegenerative diseases. Every 65 seconds, someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer disease. HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology recently hosted Dr. Ken Kosik, professor of neuroscience at the University of California Santa Barbara for an update on collaborative effort between Kosik and HudsonAlpha researchers into detecting and treating Alzheimer disease earlier. HudsonAlpha is raising money to continue and expand the research into Alzheimer disease and dementia.

Research making a difference

“We have an unprecedented opportunity to make new genomic discoveries in Alzheimer disease and dementia, which in turn will inform us about other neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS, Parkinson disease and Huntington disease,” said HudsonAlpha president and science director Rick Myers, PhD, as he introduced the work at an event last month at the Jackson Center.

The samples for this project are being collected in Colombia from a large extended family with a remarkably high number of instances of early onset Alzheimer disease and dementia.

HudsonAlpha’s Nick Cochran, PhD, explained, “These rare families continue to teach us about how this disease works, and as scientists, it is wonderful to have the opportunity to be able to help find answers for these families, and potentially even accelerate their involvement in clinical trials.” Cochran is a senior scientist in the Myers Lab leading HudsonAlpha’s collaboration.

This collaboration, as well as others for the Institute, have yielded promising results. HudsonAlpha recently found a never-before-identified mutation on the PSEN1 gene causing Alzheimer disease. This discovery opens doors for prevention efforts.  

“These large family studies give us an incredible opportunity to understand how Alzheimer’s works at a genetic level,” said Kosik. “Studying these early-onset cases — including people who are presymptomatic — give us a chance to really dig deep into what specifically is changing in the body, brain and genome to cause the degeneration. It also allows us an opportunity to try to ward off the worst of the disease.”

Click here to view Dr. Kosik’s talk. HudsonAlpha’s ongoing collaboration with UCSB and Colombia is made possible, in part, by funding from the HudsonAlpha Foundation Memory and Mobility Program, which creates the opportunity for further sequencing and study of Alzheimer and dementia patients, with the aim of moving toward better understanding and treatment.

Match your donation and double your impact

At the conclusion of the event, Peri Widener, HudsonAlpha Foundation supporter, announced her family’s plan to increase their funding for this work. Wayne Widener, Peri’s father, lived for more than a decade with a rare disease called corticobasal degeneration (CBD). After his diagnosis, Wayne and his family spent years consulting specialists before finally learning there is no known treatment. He eventually passed away in 2013.

The Widener family has committed to matching all donations to the Memory and Mobility Program (up to $200,000) until the end of 2019.

“We established the Wayne, Luanne and Peri Widener Fund for the Study of Neurodegenerative Diseases at HudsonAlpha in 2013 to focus resources on this important research,” said Peri Widener, Wayne Widener’s daughter. “My father was a brilliant, kind and resilient man, and we resolved to use his journey with this terrible disease as a way to bring visibility and hope for others. This research is an important step toward earlier identification and treatment of neurodegenerative disease.”

Don’t miss your opportunity to have your gift matched and double your impact. To join this effort and make a gift to the campaign, please visit