ADDF and FMM Partner to Support Novel Research for Mitochondrial-Directed Therapies

February 27, 2014

Category: New Grants

Research could lead to development of new therapies to treat a variety of mitochondrial diseases, including Autism, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease

The Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF) and the Foundation for Mitochondrial Medicine (FMM) announced today that they have awarded $200,000 in funding to James Bennett, M.D., Ph.D. to further research gene therapy of mitochondrial protein in the brains of mice with experimental Alzheimer’s disease. Bennett is studying rhTFAM, a novel human mitochondrial protein shown to increase mitochondrial function in cell and animal models. The protein has shown to restore memory function of aged mice while increasing mitochondrial function in brains, suggesting it has great potential to do the same in humans with impaired cognition and early Alzheimer’s disease.

“The translational nature of Dr. Bennett’s research could have critical applications beyond Alzheimer’s disease to other related disorders that affect millions of Americans.”

rhTFAM was invented and is being developed commercially by Gencia Corporation, located in Charlottesville, Va. Bennett’s research will provide critical data to support the use of rhTFAM in the use of humans.

Mitochondria dysfunction underlies many different diseases. The brain is particularly vulnerable to changes in energy use that occur with age or because of underlying disease pathology. Previous research has shown that mitochondrial in the brain are dysfunctional in early stage of Alzheimer’s, and these changes contribute to the later loss of mitochondrial function and the onset and progression of the disease.

“Novel therapies that can correct defects in mitochondria functioning have the potential to impact many different diseases,” said Bennett. “Thanks to funding support from ADDF and FMM, I’m able to continue my research into one of these novel therapies and determine possible implications for its use in a variety of areas, from early childhood genetic diseases to late-life neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.”

“We are delighted to support Dr. Bennett’s research involving the rhTFAM mitochondrial protein and the potential it has to impact the progression of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Diana Shineman, Ph.D., director of Scientific Affairs for ADDF. “The translational nature of Dr. Bennett’s research could have critical applications beyond Alzheimer’s disease to other related disorders that affect millions of Americans.”

“We are pleased to partner with ADDF and ensure that Dr. Bennett’s innovative, translation research is conducted,” said Laura Stanley, executive director of FMM. “Our mission is to fund the most promising treatments for the many forms of mitochondrial disease. Research like Dr. Bennett’s can unlock potential cures for many related diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, Autism, Parkinson’s disease and others.”

Bennett holds the Bemiss Chair and is founding director of the Virginia Commonwealth University Parkinson's and Movement Disorders Center. Bennett has held several individual NIH grants and has led two multi-investigator NIH Programs. He oversaw projects and directed the NIH-funded University of Virginia Udall Parkinson's Research Center of Excellence for ten years. He has over 140 peer-reviewed publications that have encompassed Parkinson's pharmacology and mitochondrial mechanisms of neurodegeneration. He has held multiple Investigational New Drug (IND) applications and is the inventor of worldwide patents involving use of a novel neuroprotective drug. His current research involves the molecular biology and pharmacology of mitochondrial dysfunction in neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Lou Gehrig's diseases (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). He graduated from the University of Florida in 1970 with a BS in Chemistry (with Honors). He attended Johns Hopkins University Medical School and received his M.D. degree in 1974 and Ph.D. in Pharmacology in 1977.

About the Foundation for Mitochondrial Medicine (FMM)

The Foundation for Mitochondrial Medicine’s mission is to support the development of the most promising research and treatments for the many forms of mitochondrial disease. Cures for mitochondrial diseases could impact cures for Autism, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Lou Gehrig’s disease among others. For more information on FMM funded research such as functional MRI studies on cognitive fatigue and testing of new drug compounds, visit

About VCU and the VCU Medical Center

Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 31,000 students in 223 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Sixty-eight of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 13 schools and one college. MCV Hospitals and the health sciences schools of VCU comprise the VCU Medical Center, one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers. For more, see