HOUSTON (March 22, 2010) – Dr. Stephen Wong has received a $5 million gift from the Ting Tsung and Wei Fong Chao Foundation to study progressive neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s Disease. The gift will support The Ting Tsung and Wei Fong Chao Center for Bioinformatics Research and Imaging for Neurosciences (BRAIN) at The Methodist Hospital Research Institute.
Neurodegenerative diseases affect one in five Americans. According to a 2010 study by the Alzheimer’s Organization, 5.3 million people have Alzheimer’s at a cost of approximately $172 billion per year. With a rapidly aging baby boomer population, the organization believes Alzheimer's will continue to impact more lives. From 2000 to 2006, Alzheimer's Disease deaths increased 46.1 percent.
“Our brains have about 100 billion neurons that connect at 100 trillion points. When these connections, or synapses, malfunction, the memories that make up a whole human experience simply and tragically evaporate,” said Wong who was named director of the Chao BRAIN Center.
“In the past, the time it would take to analyze the trillions of synapses was prohibitive. We plan to greatly speed that process using advanced computational analysis and high throughput imaging to make sense of this disease and find ways to slow or stop its progression. The generous support from the Chao family will help make this a reality.”
As part of the gift a $3 million fund will be established to identify new strategies for the treatment of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. A $2 million endowed fund will support a chair or research projects undertaken by the Center over the long term.
Wong holds the John S. Dunn Distinguished Endowed Chair in Biomedical Engineering at The Methodist Hospital Research Institute. He also serves as the director of the Center for Bioengineering and Informatics at The Methodist Hospital Research Institute and chief of medical physics and vice chair of radiology for The Methodist Hospital. His research focuses on multi-scale imaging techniques and bioinformatics methods to develop quantitative biomarkers and therapeutics, and to decipher complex disease mechanisms in neurodegeneration, oncology and other related disorders. He is the former director of the Center for Bioinformatics at the Harvard Center of Neurodegeneration and Repair and the Functional and Molecular Imaging Center of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, one of Harvard’s partner hospitals. He has published over 300 peer-reviewed papers and holds six patents in biomedical technology. He also serves regularly on National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Science Foundation (NSF) review panels.