According to the World Alzheimer Report 2018 by Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI), an estimated 50 million people worldwide are living with dementia at a cost of $1 trillion to the global economy. That population is expected to more than triple by the year 2050.
To expand the understanding and explanation of Alzheimer’s disease, United States businessman James Truchard has given a $5 million USD gift to The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) College of Sciences to establish the Oskar Fischer Prize. The initiative will engage the world’s brightest minds in a comprehensive literature review with the goal of synthesizing that information into one explanation for the cause of Alzheimer’s disease, taking a new systems approach to the research on Alzheimer’s, building on the work Oskar Fischer started over a century ago.
The challenge will award up to $4 million USD in Oskar Fischer Prizes, including a grand prize of $2 million, two second place prizes of $500,000 each and four third place prizes of $250,000 each. Collectively, the monetary awards are the world’s largest prizes of their kind.
The call for entries opened December 15, 2019 and will continue through December 15, 2020. UTSA will work closely with an interdisciplinary committee of outstanding scientists from Texas and around the world to award the Oskar Fischer Prizes in the Spring of 2021.
It has been more than 112 years since Oskar Fischer and Alois Alzheimer published descriptions of the condition we now call Alzheimer’s disease. Despite having spent tens of billions of dollars on research, we haven’t advanced our understanding of Alzheimer’s much beyond the careful clinical and laboratory work that Oskar Fischer described in four seminal papers in 1907, 1910, and 1912.
Oskar Fischer worked in the Department of Psychiatry at the German University in Prague, under the direction of the renowned psychiatrist and neuropathologist, Arnold Pick. Oskar Fischer’s work met a very high standard for research, for example his 1907 paper described the presence of plaques in 12 out of 16 dementia cases, four being senile dementia. It also provided the first description of neuritic plaques, accompanied with detailed drawings of the plaques. The rigor of his work was further supported by the fact that he included descriptions of 10 controls that didn’t have dementia or plaques.
In contrast, Alois Alzheimer’s 1907 paper described a single patient, Auguste Deter, whom Alzheimer observed for a period of 6 months when she was first admitted. His follow-on clinical observations were second-hand from Perusini who had observed her for three of the remaining five years of her life. Apparently, Auguste had several conditions beyond dementia, including arteriosclerosis, and likely diabetes and angina in hindsight (Peng, 2016). Arteriosclerosis appears to be the cause of her death in 1906 at the age of 55, at which time Alzheimer examined her brain. Recent DNA analysis of her brain had a first study yielding a positive result for an early onset gene variant and a second study yielding a negative result. Further testing needs to be done.
Not only was Oskar Fischer a successful research scientist with numerous publications, he was also a very successful entrepreneur and businessman, founding a sanitarium with his cousin Leo Kosak. In 1910, they purchased the Chateau Veleslavin for their sanitarium. Oskar Fischer’s fortune continued until the Germans invaded Czechoslovakia in 1939, at which time he was deposed from his teaching position because of his Jewish heritage. It was this same year that the Nazi (National Socialist) Gestapo appropriated the sanitarium. The Gestapo arrested Oskar Fischer in early 1941 and deported him to the Small Fortress at Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia, a prison similar to Dachau in Germany. According to neighbor and fellow colleague, Vladimir Vondracek, Oskar Fischer died on February 28, 1942 after being severely beaten.
Alzheimer A. Über eine eigenartige Erkrankung der Hirnrinde. Allg Z Psychiat 1907; 64: 146-8.
Berchtold, N. C.; C. W. Cotman (1998). "Evolution in the Conceptualization of Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease: Greco-Roman Period to the 1960s" (PDF). Neurobiology of Aging. 19 (3): 173–189. doi:10.1016/S0197-4580(98)00052-9. PMID 9661992. Retrieved 4 September 2012.
Fischer O. Miliare Nekrosen mit drusigen Wucherungen der Neurofibrillen, eien regelmässige Veränderung der Hirnrinde bei seniler Demenz. Monatsschr Psychiat Neruol 1907; 22: 361-72.
Goedert, Michel (2009). "Oskar Fischer and the study of dementia"(Occasional Papers). Brain. 132 (4): 1102–1111. doi:10.1093/brain/awn256. PMC 2668940. PMID 18952676. Retrieved 3 September 2012.
Peng FCC (2016). “Is alzheimer’s disease a fiction?”. Clin Res Trials 1: doi: 10.15761/CRT.1000125 https://www.oatext.com/Is-alzheimers-disease-a-fiction.php#Article_Info. Retrieved 21 September 2019.
Rupp C, Beyreuther K, Maurer K, Kins S (2014). “A presenilin 1 mutation in the first case of Alzheimer's disease: Revisited” (PDF). Alzheimer's & Dementia. 10(6): 869-872. ISSN 1552-5260. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jalz.2014.06.005. Retrieved 19 October 2019.
Vondracek V (1978). “Lékař dále vzpomíná”. Czech Republic.
Named an Innovation Agent by Fast Company, James Truchard, president and CEO, co-founded National Instruments in 1976 and has pioneered the way scientists and engineers solve the world’s grand engineering challenges.
As one of Forbes’ America’s Favorite Bosses, Dr. James Truchard, commonly known around NI as Dr. T, has led the company from a three-man team to a multinational organization recognized as a Fortune 100 Best Places to Work and one of the top 25 World’s Best Multinational Workplaces by the Great Places to Work Institute.
Under Truchard’s leadership, the company’s long-term vision, known as the 100 year plan, and focus on improving the world by providing tools that accelerate productivity, innovation and discovery, has led to strong, consistent company growth and success of its broad base of customers, employees, suppliers and shareholders.
The Oskar Fischer Prize Advisory Council is made up of external volunteer experts from the scientific, business, and public policy fields who advise on rules, eligibility, and judging criteria. The current Council members are the following.
Dean of Faculty at Minerva Schools at Keck Graduate Institute, a new undergraduate liberal arts college, San Francisco, CA.
An Investigator of Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and Professor in the Department of Molecular Biology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.
Director of the Transplantation Center of the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA).
Former Texas House Speaker served as Speaker of the 150-member Texas House from 2009 to 2019, making him the longest-serving Republican Speaker in state history.
Huda Zoghbi is Professor of Pediatrics, Molecular and Human Genetics, Neurology, and Neuroscience at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas.