MELBOURNE, FLA.— The third $50,000 gift in three years was recently awarded to Florida Institute of Technology from the Community Foundation for Brevard’s Kenneth R. Finken and Dorothy Hallam Finken Endowment Fund for research into the cause and cure of Alzheimer’s disease. The grant supports the work of Shaohua Xu, associate professor of biological sciences in the College of Science, who is using atomic force microscopy to test his unique theory of the origins of Alzheimer’s disease.
“Despite the investment of billions of dollars and decades of research, we lack an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s because no one really understands its cause,” Xu said. “This funding is most appreciated as we continue our work.”
Xu’s research is conducted at Florida Tech and the Space Life Sciences Laboratory, a unique research facility at Kennedy Space Center (KSC,) operated by the state of Florida in partnership with NASA and Florida universities. At KSC, he uses a state-of-the-art atomic force microscope, one of the few in Florida, to study the mechanism of Alzheimer’s.
Working together with Xu are several graduate and undergraduate students from Florida Tech; Daniel Woodard, a physician from Kennedy Space Center; and Sam Durrance, Florida Tech physics professor and former astronaut.
“Many drugs can produce temporary improvement in some Alzheimer’s patients, but so far none can prevent the eventual progression of the disease,” said Woodard. “Everyone is in a rush for a cure. It’s hard to persuade people that are coping with such immediate problems to invest in basic biochemical research—but without knowing what really causes the disease, we are just shooting in the dark. That’s why Dr. Xu’s ingenious new theory is so important, and why the support of the Community Foundation is vital in demonstrating that it is correct.”