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Oxford-Harrington Rare Disease Scholar Award

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Challenging the Status Quo in the Fight Against Alzheimer's Disease

Posted on June 27, 2023 in Center for Brain Health Medicines

“Our hope is that our contribution encourages others to join the fight against Alzheimer’s disease by supporting diverse new treatments that are actively in development by the network of outstanding scientists being supported by the Harrington Discovery Institute Center for Brain Health Medicines. We all are working towards the same goal. We simply can’t wait.”
-Paul and Cathy Douglas

For Paul and Cathy Douglas, Alzheimer’s is personal. Having family members affected by the debilitating disease, the couple from British Columbia, Canada knew they wanted to join the fight against it. Alzheimer’s disease (AD), the most common cause of dementia, crosses all demographics and is indiscriminate in the damage it does to patients and their families. Currently, there is no cure or treatment to reverse AD, and an estimated 500,000 new cases will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year.

Despite the near ubiquity of AD and billions spent annually to find a cure, there is a shocking lack of innovation and promising treatments. Paul and Cathy Douglas were drawn to Harrington Discovery Institute because of frustrations they share with the countless people and families who are demanding action.

For decades, AD research has focused predominantly on ways to reduce beta-amyloid plaques and tau tangles in the brain, which were the defining features of AD when it was discovered over a century ago. But these efforts have had very limited success. There are other promising pathways for therapy in AD, however, such as the various efforts being implemented by Harrington-supported scholars. Paul and Cathy Douglas saw this as an opportunity.

The Douglases are highly active and widely respected leaders in their Canadian community, with a strong history of impact philanthropy. Paul serves as Chairman of the board of PCL Construction Inc., the largest general contracting construction company in Canada, and previously led PCL as President and Chief Executive Officer until 2016. After meeting with leaders at Harrington Discovery Institute, Paul and Cathy were immediately interested in its network of scientists and portfolio approach to drug development. By developing medicines that protect neuronal synapses from degradation in AD, for example, or that optimize function of a neurotransmitter that is significantly diminished in the brains of people with AD, Harrington Scholars are providing ‘multiple shots on goal’ outside of the traditional approaches in the field. The Douglas family recognized this as a way to maximize the impact of their philanthropy.

“Alzheimer’s is one of the greatest public health challenges of our generation. Recognizing the scale of the problem, we knew we needed to be strategic about our giving and find a unique lane that we could embrace. We were impressed by Harrington’s disciplined processes and procedures that are rapidly transforming research into solutions and medicines faster than anything we have seen elsewhere. We have no time to waste when it comes to cures and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Paul.

“I was intrigued by the science. In talking to the team at Harrington, I could see that the scholars they support represent the best of the best. Their funded projects show great promise and need critical funding, and more importantly the drug development expertise and guidance offered by the Harrington Discovery Institute. This will allow them to advance their discoveries into human clinical trials and eventually into new medicines,” said Cathy.

The Paul and Cathy Douglas Scholars will receive comprehensive drug development support and funding where they will work closely with Harrington therapeutic development advisors to advance their treatments towards patients.

“We saw an opportunity to create the most impact in a relatively short time because, like so many people and families, we are waiting anxiously for a cure and new therapies that are desperately needed,” Paul added.

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