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CZI Awards $4.5M to Advance Innovative Approaches to Fighting Neurodegenerative Diseases

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The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has announced $4.5 million in funding to support 30 pairs of researchers to collaborate and apply novel approaches for gaining greater insight into neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and ALS. These new grants represent the next phase of the CZI Neurodegeneration Challenge Network (NDCN), an interdisciplinary collaborative network launched in December 2018.

Participants in the 18-month projects will address cross-cutting questions that will help increase our understanding of these diseases. The 30 teams combine clinical and basic science expertise, and at least one researcher per pair is in their early- to mid-career. 87 percent of collaborations feature an early-career researcher, and 20 percent are composed of two early-career researchers. Projects focus on well-studied neurodegenerative diseases in addition to a broader range of diseases, including Huntington’s Disease, Spinocerebellar ataxia, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, and other rare, genetically-based pediatric neurological disorders. These grants will start December 1, 2020, to allow ample time for labs and investigators to prepare amidst COVID-19.

“We are excited to welcome the Collaborative Pairs grantees to CZI’s Neurodegeneration Challenge Network and are hopeful that the discoveries these researchers make help us understand these devastating disorders,” said CZI Head of Science, Cori Bargmann. “With this collaborative network, we’re also thrilled to support early- and mid-career scientists who bring new approaches and insights to the neurodegeneration field.”

In October 2019, CZI issued an open request for applications (RFA) to the Neurodegeneration Challenge Network Collaborative Pairs program. This new announcement marks the first phase of this novel, two-phase RFA, in which pairs are receiving seed funds for initial pilots for innovative, exploratory ideas. In the second phase of the RFA, successful project teams will be eligible to apply for additional grant awards of $1.6 million over four years.

“The Neurodegeneration Challenge Network is designed to be more than the sum of its parts, and we’re excited to have 60 new members adding their innovative insights to this collaborative community,” said CZI Science Program Officer, Katja Brose.

The Challenge Network brings together computational biologists, physicians, and experimental scientists from diverse research fields – neuroscience, cell biology, biochemistry, immunology, and genomics – to understand the underlying causes of neurodegenerative disorders.