Medical Research

The Carol and Gene Ludwig Family Foundation invests in research talent poised to make the next major discoveries in neuroscience related to neurodegeneration and Alzheimer’s disease.

We aim to develop, through funding and networking opportunities, a multidisciplinary group of highly creative, skilled researchers focused on accelerating the mechanistic understanding of neurodegeneration and Alzheimer’s disease to impact treatment development. In select cases, we also provide funding to exceptional investigators focused outside of neurodegenerative disease, especially in areas of urgent scientific need.

To date, we have awarded over $44 million in medical research funding including major grants  to 15 different institutions. Several of our funded researchers are highlighted below.

Why are we focused on Alzheimer’s and neurodegenerative diseases?

More than six million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s — a number expected to nearly triple by 2050 as the population ages. The societal cost of Alzheimer’s and other dementias is immense in the United States and currently exceeds $355 billion a year.1

Recent high-profile clinical trial failures in Alzheimer’s disease, coupled with insights from genetic studies into previously unstudied mechanisms, have highlighted how little is actually understood about the fundamental causes of Alzheimer’s and related neurodegenerative disorders.

Technological advances in disease modeling, data science, genomics, and biomarker development have paved the way to investigate the underlying mechanisms of Alzheimer’s disease as never before.

The combination of a changing biomedical research landscape, formation of novel consortiums, and emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration/team science give talented researchers the leverage to uncover novel insights and new therapeutic directions for neurodegenerative disorders.

How do we achieve our goals?

We invest in research talent poised to make the next major discoveries in neuroscience related to neurodegeneration and Alzheimer’s disease.  Our goal is to provide targeted funding to a select, multidisciplinary group of researchers with the aim of advancing and/or discovering mechanistic insights into neurodegeneration, particularly Alzheimer’s disease, that can impact future treatment development.

We provide seed funding to individual researchers to accelerate high-risk, high reward research projects and participate in larger grantmaking initiatives aimed at encouraging interdisciplinary collaboration and high-impact research findings.

Select Grant Recipients

Carol and Gene Ludwig Center for Research on Neurodegeneration

A transformational gift from the Carol and Gene Ludwig Family Foundation has established The Carol and Gene Ludwig Center for Research on Neurodegeneration at Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons (VP&S). The Center will support research to better understand the underlying biological and genetic mechanisms of Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders and to discover innovative and more effective, targeted treatments for these diseases.

The gift will help create state-of-the-art laboratories for the Center and Ludwig Investigators in a new precision medicine research building at VP&S. A cornerstone of the Center will be pilot awards designed to advance and accelerate innovative new research projects, with seed funding for especially promising areas of investigation. The gift also will help Columbia recruit and retain top scientists working on neurodegeneration and will fund an annual symposium for the exchange and stimulation of ideas and results among the most prominent researchers in the field.

Ludwig Neurodegenerative Disease Seed Grants Program

The Foundation provided a grant to Harvard Medical School (HMS) to establish the Ludwig Neurodegenerative Disease Seed Grants Program to advance early-stage research toward treatment approaches. The Program was born of the many challenges that scientists have encountered in developing therapies for neurodegenerative diseases, especially Alzheimer’s disease. The program strives to identify projects grounded in basic biology that have solid potential for translational impact.

In this 4-year program, 2-3 grant recipients will be selected each year through competitive review process. The goal of this program is to leverage the in-depth basic neuroscience expertise at Harvard to investigate and validate novel mechanisms that could be key underlying drivers of neurodegeneration and in particular, Alzheimer’s disease. In addition to advancing research on neurodegenerative diseases, the program also aims to create a stronger research community around neurodegeneration at HMS. Awardees will share their findings at symposia, journal clubs, and other gatherings open to the broader HMS community.

Li Huei Tsai, PhD, Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyDirector, The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT; Picower Professor of Neuroscience, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences; Co-Director, The Alana Down Syndrome Center; Founding Director, The Aging Brain Initiative; Senior Associate Member, The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard

Dr. Tsai’s laboratory works to understand the pathogenic mechanisms underlying neurological disorders that impact learning and memory. They take multidisciplinary, network-level approaches to decipher the molecular, cellular, and circuit basis of such neurodegenerative disorders. Major accomplishments include discovering that Cdk5 mis-regulation has a causal role in AD pathology, that pharmaceutical inhibition of HDAC2’s can restore memory and, that 40 hertz brain oscillations directly influence molecular and cellular Alzheimer’s pathologies and can be enhanced non-invasively through sensory stimulation. Several targeted Tsai lab approaches are nearing or in clinical trials, some showing early efficacy in persevering brain volume, neural connectivity and, cognitive and daily functioning in early Alzheimer’s patients.

Bruce Yankner, MD PhD, Harvard Medical School Professor of Genetics and Neurology

The overall goal of Dr. Yankner’s research is to achieve a greater understanding of the molecular basis of brain aging and how normal aging transitions to pathological aging, giving rise to neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

“Continued support from the Ludwig Family Foundation has led to novel therapeutic approaches that are focused on the preservation of cognitive function during aging. This multi-disciplinary effort would be difficult to sustain through traditional grant funding mechanisms.  As such, the Ludwig Family Foundation plays an important role in pushing the boundaries of neurodegenerative disease research at Harvard.”

Megan King, PhD, Yale School of MedicineAssociate Professor of Cell Biology and of Molecular, Cellular and Development Biology; Co-Leader, Radiobiology and Radiotherapy, Yale Cancer Center

The King laboratory is interested in the fundamental mechanisms that control nuclear mechanics, dynamics, and quality control. Major efforts in the lab include: Developing a quantitative model for the mechanical response of the nucleus, investigating how nuclear compartments and local chromatin state influence genome integrity mechanisms, defining how the genome is organized over time in single cells, and defining contexts in which direct mechanotransduction of force through the LINC complex regulates cell function and homeostasis.

Steve Ramirez, PhD, Boston UniversityAssistant Professor, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences Department of Biomedical Engineering

The mission of the Ramirez lab is twofold: to reveal the neural circuit mechanisms of memory storage and retrieval, and to artificially modulate memories to combat maladaptive states. The lab will do so in a multi-disciplinary fashion by combining virus engineering strategies, immunohistochemistry and physiology, optogenetics and functional imaging of targeted populations in vivo, and a battery of behavioral assays.

“Funding from the LFF has helped us embark on the kinds of high-risk high-reward projects in the lab that otherwise would have been impossible! The LFF has directly contributed to the growth and development of several lab members, including graduate students and post-docs, all who have made exceptional progress in delineating the neural mechanisms of learning and memory, as well as restoring health back to the diseased brain.”

Andrew Xiao, PhD, Yale School of MedicineAssociate Professor, Department of Genetics 

Dr. Xiao’s laboratory focuses on epigenetic regulation in pluripotent stem cells, including embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC). His laboratory has made significant contributions to the understanding of the maintenance of pluripotency, as well as the recent discovery of novel epigenetic mechanisms, i.e., N6-methyl-adenine, in mammalian genomes.

“We greatly appreciate the support from the Carol and Gene Ludwig Family Foundation for Carol’s extraordinary vision and perspective in science.  Their support is essential for the success of my lab and instrumental for our endeavor to discover hidden components in the human genome.”

David Ho, MD, Columbia University Director, Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center; Professor of Medicine and Microbiology & Immunology

Dr. Ho’s laboratory has been engaged in HIV research since the beginning of the AIDS pandemic, initially focusing on clinical virology and select topics in HIV pathogenesis. In 2020, since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the laboratory has begun investigating potential treatments and vaccines for SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus infection.

Philip De Jager, MD PhD, Columbia UniversityWeil-Granat Professor of Neurology

The goal of Dr. De Jager's work as a clinician-scientist is to apply modern methods of neuroimmunology, statistical genetics, and systems biology to the understanding of common neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Multiple Sclerosis. He is working to harness the immune system to ensure healthy brain aging. Thanks to the Carol and Gene Ludwig Family Foundation, he is developing tools with which to map the trajectory of immune aging in each individual; this will yield a personalized approach to assessing the state of each individual’s immune system and the likelihood of continued brain health with advancing age.