Bateman receives MetLife Award for Alzheimer’s research

Physician-scientist is fifth School of Medicine winner

Randall J. Bateman​, MD, the Charles F. and Joanne Knight Distinguished Professor of Neurology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, received a MetLife Foundation Award for Medical Research on July 20 in Washington.

Bateman and this year’s other honoree, German researcher Christian Haass, MD, have made pioneering contributions to Alzheimer’s disease research. The annual award, established in 1986, was presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference.

Randall J. Bateman, MD, is a 2015 winner of the MetLife Foundation Award for Medical Research, for his pioneering contributions to Alzheimer’s disease research. (Credit: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.)

Bateman, who treats patients at Barnes-Jewish Hospital​, is the fifth scientist at the School of Medicine to receive the prize. The award, the highest in Alzheimer’s research, comes with about $200,000 in research grants to Bateman and the medical school.

“I’m fortunate to have been mentored by and to stand on the shoulders of giants, who are the investigators who have developed so much of what we now understand about this devastating disease,” Bateman said. “Magnificent contributions from our patients and teams in the lab and the research clinics have made so much possible to help us understand and now attempt to prevent Alzheimer’s.”

Bateman has spent 17 years studying Alzheimer’s at the laboratory bench and the bedside. He also leads the Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer’s Network, an international research partnership of leading scientists focused on understanding rare forms of Alzheimer’s disease that are caused by gene mutations. The network initially was led by John C. Morris, MD, director of the Charles F. and Joanne Knight Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at the School of Medicine and the Harvey A. and Dorismae Hacker Friedman Distinguished Professor of Neurology.

Bateman also is the principal investigator of one of the first clinical trials in the world to evaluate whether drugs can prevent Alzheimer’s​ in patients destined to develop the disease. Patients in the Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer’s Network-Trials Unit (DIAN-TU) have inherited genetic mutations that all but guarantee they will develop Alzheimer’s at a young age, sometime in their 30s to 50s.

The drugs being evaluated in the trial are designed to disrupt the accumulation of amyloid beta in the brain. This protein is thought to be a major contributor to the disease. If the drugs are effective, they will aid efforts to find ways to treat patients with more common forms of Alzheimer’s, which strike later in life.

Bateman’s accomplishments in the laboratory include the development of a technology that lets scientists monitor the body’s production and clearance of important proteins. This technique, known as stable isotope-linked kinetics (SILK), was co-developed with David Holtzman, MD, the Andrew B. and Gretchen P. Jones Professor and head of the Department of Neurology.

Scientists have used SILK to answer key questions about Alzheimer’s disease, and the technology also is helping scientists assess the effectiveness of experimental Alzheimer’s treatments, including those being tested in the DIAN-TU.

In addition to Holtzman and Morris, other MetLife award recipients at the School of Medicine are Marcus E. Raichle, MD, the Alan A. and Edith L. Wolff Distinguished Professor of Medicine, and Alison Goate, PhD, now at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Haass is a professor of biochemistry at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases.

Washington University School of Medicine’s 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient-care institutions in the nation, currently ranked sixth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.