UC San Diego today named Howard Feldman, a Canadian neurologist who specializes in dementia, as director of a nationwide Alzheimer’s disease research program riven in a bitter feud between two of the biggest academic powers in California.
Feldman, known for his expertise in large-scale clinical trials, steps into a breach that was created when his predecessor, Paul Aisen, abruptly resigned from UC San Diego last June as director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study (ADCS).
Aisen, who had been overseeing the study for UC San Diego since 2007, was recruited by the University of Southern California to serve as founding director of USC’s new San Diego-based Alzheimer’s Therapeutic Research Institute. Aisen also sought to take much of the nationwide ADCS program with him, triggering a tug of war between the two research universities.
Feldman’s appointment, contingent on approval from the Bethesda, MD-based National Institute on Aging, coincides with the launch of a $4 million initiative by the 10-campus University of California to move the most-promising findings in Alzheimer’s research from UC labs into early proof-of-concept clinical trials. The new effort was dubbed the UC Cures for Alzheimer’s initiative, and clinical trials will be coordinated by the ADCS under Feldman.
In a statement today, UC president Janet Napolitano said, “This initiative and the important work done—and still-to-be-done—at ADCS under the leadership of Dr. Feldman is intended to more speedily translate some of their best ideas into new treatments and, hopefully, an eventual cure.”
UC San Diego and the National Institute on Aging jointly founded the ADCS in 1991 to facilitate the discovery, development, and testing of new drugs for Alzheimer’s disease. The program coordinates Alzheimer’s research involving thousands of patients at 35 primary and 50 affiliated clinical research centers throughout the United States and Canada. Total funding for research grants awarded by both federal and private sources amounts to roughly $100 million.
In July, the University of California system sued USC, alleging that Aisen had conspired to “misappropriate” the ADCS by moving the program to USC. UC said Aisen had taken steps to retain his oversight over a number of key ADCS research programs, and still maintained root control over computer systems used to manage Alzheimer’s research and data collected over the past 25 years.
As a defiant Aisen put it in a statement at the time, “I left UCSD, not the ADCS.”