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Rachita Sumbria Receives the New Investigator Research Grant from the Alzheimer’s Association

School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences Assistant Professor Rachita Sumbria has been awarded the 2015 New Investigator Research Grant from the Alzheimer’s Association. This competitive grant will provide important funding to support her research on developing a brain penetrating TNF-alpha inhibitor (TNFI) for Alzheimer’s disease. Overall, Dr. Sumbria hopes this work will contribute to finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. 

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 5 million American’s are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease, which is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. In this disease tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha plays an important role at various stages of pathophysiology and disease progression but to block its action, drugs must get past the blood-brain barrier (BBB). These drugs are called TNF-alpha inhibitors (TNFIs). The BBB is a natural barrier that protects and separates the periphery from the Central Nervous System, but also prevents large molecules, such as TNFIs from entering the brain. The key then is to find a way to get the TNFIs into the brain which may lead to new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Sumbria’s research will focus on getting a TNF-alpha inhibitor into the brain noninvasively via the molecular Trojan Horse technology (MTH), which was introduced to her during her postdoctoral training at UCLA, under the mentorship of Dr. William Pardridge. This MTH technology transports the TNFI into the brain, essentially acting as a ferry for the drug (e.g., TNFI) and allowing it to get past the BBB.

Dr. Sumbria carried out research on BBB-penetrating TNFIs as a postdoc at UCLA. While there she focused on studying the therapeutic potential of a BBB-penetrating TNFI in mouse models of Parkinson’s disease and ischemic strokeIn an attempt to move this research further, Dr. Sumbria stated the funds received will be used to study the effect of this BBB-penetrating TNFI in Alzheimer’s disease and determine if therapeutic benefits can be achieved. Remarking on her research journey, she said, “This is truly is a collaborative effort and this being my very first award, I have relied heavily on my mentors!”

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the New Investigator Research Grant (NIRG) is designed to fund investigators who are less than 10 years past their doctoral degree. Specifically, the program’s purpose program is to provide newly independent investigators with funding that will allow them to develop preliminary or pilot data, to test procedures and to develop hypotheses. Specifically this grant awards researchers up to $100,000 over two years. Dr. Sumbria has been awarded $98,000.

In speaking about receiving this grant award, Dr. Sumbria said, “I’m excited for this opportunity to move this research forward and to continue working on this at KGI. Hopefully this research will underscore the importance of the blood-brain barrier as a bottleneck to brain drug delivery, especially for Alzheimer’s disease.”