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Renowned Scientist joins CU’s Alzheimer’s Research and Care Team

Huntington Potter joins CU School of Medicine

7/12/2012
Huntington Potter, MD

AURORA, Colo. – Renowned scientist, Huntington Potter, PhD, will join Alzheimer's disease research and initiate the formation of a new clinical care center here in Colorado. In July, Dr. Potter joins the University of Colorado School of Medicine's Department of Neurology and the Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus where his lab will study the mechanism by which Alzheimer's disease and Down syndrome arise and research drugs that could ameliorate or prevent Alzheimer's disease. He also will begin the process of building an Alzheimer's disease center for excellence in clinical care, the only one in Colorado and in a thousand-mile radius of Denver.

Potter discovered and is devoted to studying the mechanistic relationship between Alzheimer's disease and Down syndrome. His seminal research led to the discovery of triplication of chromosome 21 in many cells of patients with Alzheimer's disease, leading Potter to postulate that people with Alzheimer's have a genetic defect or an environmental exposure that leads them to develop mosaic trisomy 21/Down syndrome.

In his new role as Director of Alzheimer's Disease Research in the CU School of Medicine Department of Neurology and the Linda Crnic Center for Down Syndrome, Potter will develop clinical trials to prevent the onset of Alzheimer's disease.

"I'm excited to be part of the Crnic Institute and the Department of Neurology here on the Anschutz Medical Campus," said Potter. "Alzheimer's disease and Down syndrome are two sides of the same coin and studying them together will best hasten the development of new treatments for both. In Colorado I can build the ideal joint program that should eventually benefit millions of people suffering from Alzheimer's disease including those with Down syndrome."

Tom Blumenthal, the Anna and John J. Sie Professor in Genomics and Executive Director of the Crnic Institute, welcomes Potter to the growing number of scientists working on Down syndrome research. "Dr. Potter's hire underscores how providing research funds benefitting people with Down syndrome can also benefit tens of millions suffering from diseases such as Alzheimer's, congenital heart disease or certain cancers. We are pleased to be collaborating with the Department of Neurology to hire such an outstanding scientist who is focused on helping people with Down syndrome and Alzheimer's disease."

"We are excited that Dr. Potter has chosen to join the University of Colorado School of Medicine to develop our new program in Alzheimer's disease," said Kenneth L. Tyler, MD, Reuler-Lewin Family Professor and chairman of the Department of Neurology. "He brings a commitment to improving the understanding of this disorder and the care for individuals at risk for Alzheimer's disease. His presence at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus significantly enhances our presence in this critically important area, and sets the stage for development of an Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at the CU School of Medicine."

The average lifespan of a person with Down syndrome has more than doubled over the last three decades to 60 years. The increase is due in large part to the dismantling of inhumane institutions and improved access to life-saving care. With this increased lifespan, a large number of people with Down syndrome are being diagnosed with the early onset of Alzheimer's disease.

Current research estimates all people with Down syndrome will have the brain pathology of Alzheimer's disease but only about half will have the associated degenerative cognitive symptoms. The Crnic Institute is dedicated to eradicating the medical and cognitive ill effects associated with Down syndrome, and relies on the Global Down Syndrome Foundation for fundraising, education, awareness and government advocacy.

Both the Crnic Institute and the Global Down Syndrome Foundation are made possible by the generous support of founding donors Anna and John J. Sie, whose granddaughter happens to have Down syndrome. The Anna and John J. Sie Foundation has committed more than $22 million dollars to establish the Crnic Institute as the worldwide beacon for research and care related to Down syndrome.

"Alzheimer's disease is an immense and increasing problem across the population, and particularly for adults with Down syndrome," said John J. Sie. "The appointment of Hunt Potter demonstrates that the Crnic Institute is engaged in research that will change the outcome for these individuals."

Prior to joining the Crnic Institute, Potter studied, researched and taught for 30 years at Harvard University. He received his AB Cum Laude in Physics and Chemistry and his MA and PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology before spending 13 years on the faculty of the Neurobiology Department. In 1998, he joined the Faculty at the University of South Florida (USF) as the Eric Pfeiffer Chair for Research on Alzheimer's Disease. He designed and directed the NIA-designated Florida Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at USF and was elected President of the Faculty at the College of Medicine, and President of the USF Tampa Faculty Senate. From 2004-2008, Potter was CEO and Scientific Director of the Johnnie B. Byrd Sr. Alzheimer's Center & Research Institute, during which time the Institute built the largest free-standing Alzheimer's disease research institute in the world and developed seven new treatments for Alzheimer's disease in preparation for human trials.

Potter is credited with the first demonstration of the Holliday intermediate in genetic recombination, the perfection of electroporation for gene transfer, and the discovery of the essential role of inflammation and the amyloid-promoting activity of the apoE-4 protein in Alzheimer's disease. He is the author of more than 100 scientific articles and books, is the holder of 15 U.S. and foreign patents, has sat on scientific advisory and review committees in academia, industry and government, and has received numerous awards for his work. In 2010, Potter was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. His electron micrographs of DNA are on permanent exhibit in the National American History Museum of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C.

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