Tackling tomorrow’s health challenges: UC faculty speak at NY Times conference
Nobel Prize winner Stanley Prusiner is not resting on his laurels.
Instead, the 72-year-old UC San Francisco neurologist has set his sights on solving one of the biggest challenges facing health care today: Alzheimer’s disease.
Prusiner made a passionate plea for tackling Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases at the May 29 New York Times Health for Tomorrow conference at UCSF Mission Bay Conference Center. The conference, which featured experts from the University of California and across the country, addressed the changing landscape of health care.
Alzheimer’s already has a large impact on health care: It’s the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S. — more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined — and nearly half of people age 85 and older have the disease, Prusiner said. Without action, it will get worse — the prevalence of the disease is projected to triple by 2050 to as many as 16 million Americans.
“This is a huge, huge problem, and we’re not doing nearly enough,” said Prusiner, a UC San Francisco professor of neurology and director of the Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases. “This is such an important area. There is no substitute for research. That’s going to really make a difference.”
UC is conducting research on health’s most pressing problems, teaching the next generation of health professionals and working to improve health care quality, access and affordability, said UC President Janet Napolitano, who delivered welcoming remarks at the conference.
“There are no quick fixes, but I think working together we can make steady progress,” Napolitano said.
Indeed, research is being conducted throughout UC on Alzheimer’s and many other health issues. Napolitano noted that UC San Francisco leads a team that was just awarded a $26 million federal grant — part of President Obama’s Brain Initiative — to create an implantable device that will retrain the brain to recover from mental illness. She also pointed to research by conference speakers David Kilgore of UC Irvine and Michael Fischbach of UC San Francisco.
- See the UC website for Alec Rosenberg’s complete story.
- See the New York Times Health for Tomorrow website for video of the conference.