Proposed bill could help Board of Curators give more grant money

Both of the bill’s sponsors said it could give more money for medical research.

Correction appended

A new bill proposed by Rep. Margo McNeil, D-St. Louis, could potentially raise the maximum annual grant allowance for Alzheimer’s disease research funding by the UM Board of Curators per year from $30,000 to $50,000, according to the bill.

McNeil said after speaking to members of the Alzheimer’s Association, she discovered $30,000 is not an adequate grant for researchers to do the necessary research to potentially find a cure for the disease.

“There’s a large number of people affected by the disease either themselves or because one of their loved ones is afflicted,” she said.

House Bill 1216 would repeal and revise the current amount of money the Board of Curators is allowed to make available on an annual basis for different research projects, McNeil said.

“The problem is the $30,000 in the statute was just not enough for the researchers to develop their project to the point where they can expand it,” she said.

McNeil also said by receiving grant money, researchers have been able to leverage additional grant money on the federal level. Raising the current grant will allow faculty and students in Missouri to begin researching some aspect of Alzheimer’s disease so, depending on their progress, they will be able to apply to get more funding to continue their research.

“For every dollar of grant money the Board of Curators is able to give out, the average amount of additional grant money they’re able to get is $10,” she said. “It’s quite important to have this initial seed money here in Missouri.”

Bill co-sponsor Rep. Wayne Wallingford, R-Cape Girardeau, said this money could also benefit college students who could work under the guidance of a professor, understand how research is done and learn how to think critically.

“Breakthrough drugs are found on universities all the time, so it’s good to get a new set of eyes in there,” he said.

McNeil said her motivation to sponsor the bill came from personal experience with a family member who was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s and passed away at age 60. She said Alzheimer’s research is going to be particularly necessary given the demographics of the younger generation.

“There are going to be more and more seniors that sadly will be developing Alzheimer’s because of percentage increases,” she said.

Wallingford has worked in support of the passing of this bill because of his experiences with close friends diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The predicted threefold increase in the percentage of Americans affected by Alzheimer’s by 2050 concerns him.

“It’s very tragic and that’s why we need to make a bold statement to get this out in the public,” he said.

McNeil said if the bill does pass, it would be enacted Aug. 28.

“This is getting ahead of the curve by doing research that will be of aid and help us to better service those individuals that get Alzheimer’s so the progression of the disease can be slowed down,” McNeil said.

Correction appended: This story initially quoted Rep. Margo McNeil, D-St. Louis saying, "For every dollar of grant money the Board of Curators is able to give out, the average amount of additional grant money they're able to get is $10," she said. "It's quite important to have this initial feed money here in Missouri." Instead of the word feed, McNeil said seed. The Maneater regrets the error.

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