NEW YORK, Nov. 4, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — The Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation has named Dr. Jerri M. Rook as the recipient of the 2020 Melvin R. Goodes Prize for Excellence in Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery. She is being honored for her innovative research, which explores novel drug targets that may improve cognitive function and have the potential to slow and stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

The Goodes Prize recognizes leading researchers developing treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Dr. Rook, a highly trained behavioral and neuropharmacologist, currently serves as a Research Instructor in the Department of Pharmacology at Vanderbilt University in the Vanderbilt Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery. She and her team have developed drug compounds that activate muscarinic M1 receptors, which help process signals that cross the synapses in our brains, affecting memory and cognition.

Researchers have long theorized that this mechanism could effectively treat memory loss in Alzheimer’s disease and other brain disorders, but up until now, they have caused unbearable side effects. Dr. Rook has found a way to develop molecules that appear to have the desired treatment benefits without the unwanted serious side effects.

Dr. Rook’s research on a separate drug recently led to a $10 million licensing agreement between Vanderbilt University and the biotechnology company Acadia Pharmaceuticals, with eligibility for potential milestone payments of up to $515 million and tiered royalties. The deal will help to further develop and hopefully commercialize the drug.  A phase 1 trial recently began to further explore the lead compound, VU319, and initial results demonstrate the compound was tolerated safely in humans.  

“We are excited about Dr. Rook’s work, which is a breakthrough for the field, making use of this target to improve cognitive function without the side effects,” said Dr. Howard Fillit, Founding Executive Director and Chief Science Officer of the ADDF. “Her research is representative of the ADDF’s support of novel therapeutics that target various disease pathways – with the aim of transforming them into effective and safe treatments for patients.”

The Melvin R. Goodes Prize includes a $150,000 award and will support Dr. Rook’s research into a new drug discovery program that explores another novel drug target, also aiming to slow and potentially halt the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. The ADDF has supported her work since 2014. Dr. Rook was also the recipient of the 2015 ADDF-Harrington Scholar Award.

“I am honored to receive this recognition and grateful to the ADDF and Mel and Nancy Goodes, whose never-ending dedication to finding effective treatments brings us closer to solutions for patients and their families,” said Dr. Rook. “It is an exciting time in the world of drug development and the Goodes Prize makes it possible to drive forward crucial research.”

The Melvin R. Goodes Prize is named in honor of the courage, legacy and research advocacy of Mr. Goodes, former Warner-Lambert CEO and Chairman and honorary member of the ADDF’s Board of Governors. It was created thanks to the generosity of Mr. Goodes and his wife, Nancy, who is also on the ADDF’s Board. The Goodes Family Foundation committed $750,000 to fund the Goodes Prizes for 10 years, and the ADDF matched that contribution. Each year, the Goodes Prize is awarded to a professionally active researcher in academia or industry who has pursued novel research and made a significant and lasting impact in Alzheimer’s drug discovery. A Selection Committee that includes leaders in the field nominates candidates for consideration and chooses a winner based on past achievements and proposed future research.

Past Awardees
Jeffrey Cummings, M.D., Ph.D.
2018: Michela Gallagher, Ph.D.
2017: Roberta Diaz Brinton, Ph.D.
2016: Daniel Martin Watterson, Ph.D.
2015: Frank M. Longo, M.D., Ph.D.

Melvin R. Goodes joined Warner-Lambert Canada as manager of new product development in 1965 and quickly rose through the ranks to become CEO and Chairman Worldwide in 1991. Under his leadership, Warner-Lambert became a major player in the prescription drug industry, bringing Lipitor to market in 1996. Lipitor, a highly effective statin, was the world’s best-selling drug, with more than $135 billion in sales. Early in his tenure as CEO, he spearheaded the development of Cognex, the first drug approved by the FDA for Alzheimer’s disease. In 2010, Mr. Goodes made headlines with a landmark speech revealing his early-stage Alzheimer’s disease and pledged to apply all his efforts to speed up the search for new therapies. Since this speech, he and his wife Nancy have become strong ambassadors for the ADDF, inspiring hope among Alzheimer’s patients, caregivers, physicians, and researchers.

Founded in 1998 by Leonard A. and Ronald S. Lauder, the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation is dedicated to rapidly accelerating the discovery of drugs to prevent, treat and cure Alzheimer’s disease. The ADDF is the only public charity solely focused on funding the development of drugs for Alzheimer’s, employing a venture philanthropy model to support research in academia and the biotech industry. Through the generosity of its donors, the ADDF has awarded over $150 million to fund more than 626 Alzheimer’s drug discovery programs and clinical trials in 19 countries. To learn more, please visit:


SOURCE Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation

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