Launching CZI’s Neurodegeneration Challenge Network - Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and much more
Neurodegeneration is one of society’s critical issues over the next 50 years. Millions of people worldwide suffer from neurodegenerative diseases, which include Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s as well as ALS, Multiple Sclerosis, Huntington’s, and a diverse range of other conditions. Neurodegenerative diseases share the common feature that they involve a progressive degeneration and ultimately death of neurons, the key communication lines of our brain and nervous system. These are terrible diseases, ones that deteriorate the brain and body, taking away a person’s independence, cognitive capacities, personality, and sense of self. There are no effective therapies to prevent, cure, or treat most of these disorders.
The societal impact of these disorders is staggering. Alzheimer’s disease alone is the fifth most common cause of death for Americans above age 65, and the number of people with Alzheimer’s and related dementias is predicted to nearly triple — from 5 million people to 14 million people — by 2060. The profound human toll and suffering impacts everyone — patients, caregivers, family and friends. That’s why the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is investing in a new approach to tackle neurodegeneration.
Not one, but hundreds of diseases
While we tend to think about neurodegenerative diseases as conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s that are associated with old age, neurodegenerative diseases represent a diverse range across the entire lifespan, including diseases that afflict infants and children, like Spinal Muscular Atrophy; to diseases like ALS and Huntington’s that are often diagnosed in middle age. And for most neurodegenerative diseases, we now think that the initial disease processes begin decades before the symptoms emerge. There are hundreds of neurodegenerative conditions, with distinct features and causes — some are genetic; some share comorbidities with other diseases, like heart disease and diabetes; some come about from injury, and others result from side effects of treatments for other conditions, such as chemotherapy-induced neuropathies.
The CZI Neurodegeneration Challenge Network aims to take a new approach to tackling these diseases. The Challenge Network is an experiment, one we believe can have impact well beyond the investigators included. We recognize that this is not a problem we can solve alone — only when we work together can we truly solve the challenge of neurodegeneration. The Neurodegeneration Challenge Network has two goals. First, create a new collaborative, open-science centered approach to generate new ideas. Second, use those ideas to develop new approaches to make advances in our understanding of the fundamental biology of neurodegeneration.