Leading Neuroscientist Joins Fight To Solve Brain Diseases

Todd Golde in front of the McKnight Brain Institute
Todd Golde in front of the McKnight Brain Institute

A researcher recruited to lead a new initiative in the College of Medicine called the Center for Translational Research in Neurodegenerative Disease is the perfect complement to efforts under way at the Evelyn F. and William L. McKnight Brain Institute, according to Dennis A. Steindler, Ph.D., executive director of the MBI.

Todd Golde, M.D., Ph.D., formerly the chairman of the department of neuroscience at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, is an international authority in drug discovery to help Alzheimer’s patients, Steindler said.
“He is a superb Alzheimer’s disease and neuroscience researcher — one of the best and most respected in the world,” Steindler said. “He is not only going to complement our existing programs, he will create new ones that will enable us to target all neurological disorders.”

Golde’s work dovetails with the work of a number of MBI researchers, and he will lead an effort to develop treatments and diagnostics for Alzheimer’s disease, dementias, Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases.

His studies often center on amyloid beta protein, a substance believed to contribute to the accumulation of “brain plaque” in Alzheimer’s patients, Steindler said.

Writing in Nature in 2008, Golde helped explain the molecular interplay between amyloid beta protein, often referred to as Abeta, and a class of therapeutic agents known as gamma-secretase modulators, or GSMs, now being tested in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

Golde’s group discovered GSMs work by reducing production of longer, toxic pieces of Abeta, while enhancing production of shorter forms that may actually thwart Alzheimer’s disease.

“I think there are a number of ways we can go after this disease,” Golde said. “If you make the analogy that Abeta is like cholesterol, and its presence precedes the onset of clinical symptoms, reducing Abeta production may have a great preventive effect against Alzheimer’s disease, just as lowering cholesterol helps prevent heart disease and stroke. So it may work great as prevention, but not as a therapeutic. Given that, we are also focusing research on the downstream pathways of Alzheimer’s disease.”

Golde said he is eager to begin working with scientists and clinicians at the MBI and the neuroscience and neurology departments as he builds his research program.

“I am extremely excited about this opportunity to work with the faculty at UF and build a group focused on doing something about major neurodegenerative diseases,” Golde said.

Golde, who received his doctoral and medical degrees at Case Western University, began his professional career as an assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. He was chief resident for laboratory medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania before joining the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville in 1997 as an assistant professor of pharmacology. He became chair of the neuroscience department at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville in 2003.

“He has been at the forefront of Alzheimer’s disease research and has an incredible scientific reputation,” said Lucia Notterpek, Ph.D., chair of the neuroscience department. “I think Dr. Golde’s arrival enhances the department’s image nationally and will help us obtain large, programmatic grants. It’s going to be a great boost for us and very beneficial to the College of Medicine and the Health Science Center.”

Notterpek expects additional recruitments will further grow Golde’s research group and the neuroscience department.

“He is a good fit for our faculty, students and postdocs,” she said.

His experience in drug discovery and expertise in transforming laboratory discoveries into clinical therapies and diagnostics will be welcome, according to Tetsuo Ashizawa, M.D., chairman of the department of neurology.

“This is an extraordinary fit with a variety of our researchers fighting to end neurodegenerative diseases and cognitive decline,” Ashizawa said. “My excitement lies in the collaborations and new relationships that we will build, and how that will enrich the clinical and translational research in the neurology department. This group will really add fuel to the fire.”

Golde has already begun work with his UF colleagues and is planning his lab, according to Michael Good, M.D., interim dean of the College of Medicine.

“Dementia impacts our lives with such devastation, and it is estimated that it will touch nearly a half a million patients and their families in Florida alone in the coming year,” Good said. “Dr. Golde’s recruitment to UF strengthens our team with one of the brightest minds working in this field. He and we are determined to beat this foe.”