Rosalind Franklin University brain disease conference explores the burden of neurological diseases in the US: New initiatives for diagnosing and treating brain diseases

Dr. Ronald Kaplan, executive vice president of Research of Rosalind Franklin University, announced today that the university will host its first national forum on brain diseases in a two-day virtual symposium on Sept. 16 and 17.

The symposium is sponsored by RFU’s Brain Science Institute, which was officially formed in July 2018 to recognize the university’s large and diverse research programs into brain diseases, and successful external funding from the National Institutes of Health and brain-disease related foundations.

According to the American Brain Foundation, brain diseases come in many different forms and affect the lives of one in six people in the United States, or more than 50 million people, and costs over $1 trillion in annual treatment, not including the impact on work productivity.

The symposium, titled “Investing in Brain Disease Research,” is being organized by Dr. Amiel Rosenkranz, director of RFU’s Brain Science Institute. It will feature panels led by each of the institute’s three centers, exploring the latest trends for diseases and their diagnosis and treatment in the following respective areas:

  • Neurodegenerative diseases
  • Psychiatric disorders
  • Brain function and repair, including genetic perspectives

In addition to RFU researchers, the symposium will feature researchers from other academic institutions, the NIH, neurological and psychiatric research foundations, and industry, including global pharma companies and early-stage companies spinning out of Chicago universities. Venture capital groups — including corporate venture capital groups that fund early-stage company research — will also participate in the program.
Keynote speakers include Dr. Arthur Levine, MD, executive director of the University of Pittsburgh’s Brain Institute, former dean of the university’s medical school and former senior vice-chancellor of health sciences. Dr. Levine received his medical degree at RFU’s Chicago Medical School.

Additional keynotes include Dr. Norbert Riedel, PhD, president and CEO of one of Chicago’s leading neuroscience companies, Aptinyx, which originally was founded on technology from Northwestern University; and Dr. Michelle Hastings, PhD, director of RFU’s Center for Genetic Diseases. Dr. Hastings was recently awarded an NIH grant to fund work stemming from her recent study published in Nature Medicine demonstrating efficacy of a new type of therapeutic approach for CLN3 Batten disease, a pediatric neurodegenerative disorder.

Dr. Rosenkranz said it is a critical and opportune time to convene the multiple players in brain-disease research fields.

“We want to explore the latest trends and discuss new therapeutic and diagnostic initiatives under development to enhance patient quality of life for these debilitating diseases,” he said. “Brain disease is on the rise due to the aging of the U.S. population. It has and will continue to have a significant impact on U.S. health care and the economy, particularly such diseases as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, as well as depression, schizophrenia, anxiety and numerous genetic disorders.

“As researchers, we need to be innovative about developing new approaches for progress and funding through collaborations with the public and private sector,” Dr. Rosenkranz added. “The COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated that when these sectors come together as a united front, an acceleration of therapeutic and diagnostic applications can be made available to patients in need.”

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