Israel, state officials call for Alzheimer’s initiative

Congressman Steve Israel and members of the state Senate and Assembly have renewed a push to fund Alzheimer's research.

U.S. Rep. Steve Israel and State Assemblyman Charles Lavine joined forces at North Shore-LIJ’s Feinstein R&D center on Tuesday to renew a call to turn the Empire State into a national focal point for Alzheimer’s disease research.

Joining the pair: State Sen. David Carlucci, a Democrat from mid-state Clarkstown.

The initiative, according to the lawmakers, would mirror California’s approach to stem cell research and that state’s 2004 Stem Cell Research and Cures Act, which among other things facilitated public funding of stem cell research – unique in the annals of scientific funding.

“Proposition 71,” as it is known, created the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, which sets regulatory standards and over 10 years is doling out $2.7 billion in California general obligation bonds – usually reserved for public-benefit construction projects, like highways and hospitals – to fund stem cell projects.

Credited with creating thousands of research-related jobs, the initiative has made California a hotbed of stem cell research. With national Alzheimer’s disease cases and costs spiraling, New York could become a similar focal point for investment and research, according to Carlucci, echoing a call Israel and Lavine have made for years.

“There are over 5 million people in the United States who live with Alzheimer’s disease,” Carlucci said, noting a new case is diagnosed every 67 seconds and care costs are expected to eclipse $226 billion this year – on their way to $1.1 trillion by 2050.

“It’s time New York State dedicates the adequate amount of funds and resources for the imperative research that is necessary to treat and eventually cure Alzheimer’s disease,” Carlucci added.

Israel and Lavine last appeared together at the Feinstein Institute in 2013, issuing a similar call for a New York bond initiative to fund Alzheimer’s research and create jobs. On Tuesday, Lavine noted that he’s “long fought for increased funding for Alzheimer’s research” and said “Long Island and New York’s advanced medical facilities could be home to the most influential research in the country.”

Israel pointed out the “financial cost of the disease has never been higher.”

“With the cost of Alzheimer’s to our country expected to skyrocket, this bonding initiative will make New York a national leader in funding robust research,” the congressman said.

In addition to the repeated calls for a New York bond program, Israel has spearheaded several other Alzheimer’s-related initiatives. Joined by representatives of the Suffolk County Legislature, the Long Island Chapter of the national Alzheimer’s Association and others, he’s introduced numerous House bills aimed at assisting families with aging relatives.

In 2013, he also joined U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.) to announce the creation of an Alzheimer’s-focused neuroscience research partnership between the Feinstein Institute, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the University of Pennsylvania Health System, Philadelphia’s Temple University and Israel-based Israel Brain Technologies.

Such partnerships have helped usher the Feinstein Institute into a critical Alzheimer’s research role. Today, roughly a dozen principal Feinstein researchers are studying genes that can help them better understand, and potentially prevent, the disease, with work ranging from experimental drug trials to advanced brain imaging to neurocognitive testing.

Peter Davies, director of Feinstein’s Litwin-Zucker Research Center for the Study of Alzheimer’s disease and one of those principal researchers, said he had “no doubt” the proposed bond initiative gives New York “the chance to become the leader in Alzheimer’s disease research.”

“We have the talent and the infrastructure [in New York], from Buffalo to Brookhaven,” Davies said. “But the funding is absolutely required for success.”