Disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke are devastating health conditions for which there are no known effective therapies or cures. As the population ages, the prevalence of these age-related diseases increases; they are now at epidemic proportions in industrialized nations. The economic, societal and caregiver burdens of these conditions are enormous and also growing rapidly as our the average life-expectancy increases. Currently, ~5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, ~1 million have Parkinson’s disease, and each year ~800,000 people suffer a stroke. The yearly cost of these diseases is estimated to be well over $500 billion per year and will likely reach several trillion dollars by 2050. Due to its large population and high percentage of elderly the impact of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease and stroke in Florida is particularly large. We cannot afford inaction. We need to continue to enhance our understanding of the disease processes so that new therapies based on new discoveries can be developed. Indeed, we have a desperate need to translate our enhanced understating of the pathogenesis of these diseases.
In addition to these common neurologic disorders, there are a number of less common, but no less devastating, neurologic conditions for which there are no effective treatments. These include amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Huntington’s disease, Fronto-temporal dementia, and various types of ataxia, dystonia, tremor, and neuromuscular conditions. In many of these diseases it has been possible to identify mutations in specific genes that cause the illness. These discoveries have created opportunities to develop novel preclinical models, explore fundamental mechanisms of disease, identify new therapeutic targets, and ultimately develop and test novel therapies for these diseases, where there is little commercial activity.