Summer
2012

Philanthropy

Neuroscience Professorship Secures Continuity of Alzheimer’s Research

The Riuko and Archie G. Co Professorship in Neuroscience will support the work of Gary Landreth, PhD

Paige Cramer, PhD, and Gary Landreth, PhD
Paige Cramer, PhD, and Gary Landreth, PhD

Archie G. and Riuko CoArchie G. and Riuko Co

Breakthrough Alzheimer’s research conducted at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine has inspired a university alumnus and trustee to establish an endowed professorship to support future advances in neurosciences.

When Archie G. Co (CIT ’63) received an email from School of Medicine Dean Pamela B. Davis, MD, PhD, about a recent discovery from the lab of neurosciences professor Gary Landreth, PhD, he knew he wanted to act quickly.

Landreth’s team had announced the results of experiments using an existing cancer medication—bexarotene—to treat Alzheimer’s disease. (See cover story “Drugs Leading Double Lives” on pg. 10.) When given to mice exhibiting the cognitive and memory challenges associated with the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, the drug yielded dramatic improvements within 72 hours. The findings, published in the journal Science, point to the significant potential that bexarotene has to help the roughly 5.3 million Americans suffering from the progressive brain disease.

“This was a major discovery about a terrible disease, and I wanted to help him along,” Co says.

So he contacted university President Barbara R. Snyder and shared his decision to endow the Riuko and Archie G. Co Professorship in Neuroscience. Landreth has been named the inaugural professor.

Landreth describes identifying the Alzheimer’s application of bexarotene as the “scientific equivalent of being struck by lightning.” The drug has already secured FDA approval for one purpose, which cuts a decade out of the approval process. “We’re in a remarkable position,” Landreth says.

With 85 percent of the funding in place, clinical trials in humans are expected to begin late this summer.

Co lives in Singapore and owns a boutique hotel in Tokyo and a full-service, 186-room hotel in Osaka, Japan. He came to Case Institute of Technology as a sophomore, where he majored in chemical engineering. He went on to pursue a career in business and is the former president and CEO of Singapore Industrial Equipment. “I felt it was very important to retain this research,” Co says of the team’s discovery. He designated the chair for neuroscience specifically to ensure that important work in the field continues when and if the Alzheimer’s question is resolved.

Landreth endorses Co’s broader focus of the chair because of the value of basic science research. The underlying biology behind his lab’s discovery, he says, has implications for stroke, traumatic brain injury, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and more.