Amy Porter

The McKnight Brain Research Foundation appoints Amy Porter to Executive Director Position

Amy PorterThe McKnight Brain Research Foundation (MBRF) is pleased to announce the appointment of Amy McGuire Porter as its Executive Director (ED) effective, April 1, 2018. The ED is the chief management officer of the MBRF and reports directly to the Board of Trustees (Board) through the Chair of the Board. The ED serves as the lead representative of the organization, along with the chair and as its primary spokesperson to all stakeholder groups.

Amy has served as a non-profit professional for over 30 years with 16 years’ experience serving as executive director and CEO of two national, health-related organizations – the Foundation for National Institutes of Health (FNIH) from 2001-2010 and the National Osteoporosis Foundation from 2010 through 2017.

During Amy’s nine years as Acting and then Executive Director of the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH), nearly $500 million in contributed revenue was received and for four consecutive years the FNIH received Charity Navigator’s highest 4 Star Ratings. The development of a pioneering form of public-private partnership that produced the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative and the Biomarkers Consortium, are major achievements under Amy’s leadership.

Under Amy’s tenure at FNIH, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation provided $200 million to design, launch and manage Grand Challenges in Global Health, a five-year grant program to foster innovation in solving key global health and development problems. In addition, FNIH managed the Mouse Genome Sequencing Consortium, issuing $24 million in grants to three academic centers, speeding up the determination of the DNA sequence of the mouse genome. Other major programs developed during her tenure include the Genetic Association Information Network, a program to genotype existing research studies combining the results with clinical data to create a new resource for genetic researchers and secured the funding for the design and constructions of the Edmond J. Safra Family Lodge and Garden on the NIH campus. The Research Partnership in Cognitive Aging, a public- private partnership with the National Institute on Aging and the McKnight Brain Research Foundation to support research on age-related changes in the brain influencing cognition and memory loss associated with normal aging, was formed during Amy’s time as ED of the FNIH.

In 2010, Amy became the CEO and Executive Director of the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF). In her role, she was the primary spokesperson to all stakeholder groups. She was responsible for overseeing strategic planning, operations, and administration of the organization. Additional duties included identifying and developing educational and research priorities, enhancing the NOF image and enriching all levels of engagement with patients, caregivers, physicians and the public.

In Amy’s first year at NOF, she established the National Bone Health Alliance (NBHA) based on the Biomarkers Consortium model developed at FNIH. Under NOF’s management, the NBHA has become a successful consortium of over fifty-member organizations joining together to advance research, advocacy and education in osteoporosis and rare bone diseases, and to promote bone health. NBHA members include other nonprofit organizations, medical societies, pharmaceutical and diagnostic industry partners, and nutrition and exercise companies. The NIH, FDA, NASA and CDC participate as advisors to the NBHA.

Amy has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kent State University and attended the Master’s in Arts program for non-profit management at the University of Akron. In 2005, Amy was the recipient of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center Director’s Award for her work in support of NIH patients and their families. In 2009, Amy received the Honorary Alumna Award from The University of Akron for her work in support of health and biomedical research. In 2017, Amy received the New Jersey Interagency Council Professional Award and was appointed as a member of the Stakeholder Advisory Committee to the CEO of Pharmaceutical Research Manufacturers of America ((PhRMA).

The purpose of the MBRF is to promote research and investigation of the brain that underlie the neurobiology of memory with clinical relevance to the problems of cognitive decline and age-related memory loss. Amy’s background and experience make her uniquely qualified to serve as the Executive Director of the McKnight Brain Research Foundation.

Tatjana Rundek, M.D., Ph.D., FAAN

Dr. Tatjana Rundek Named Scientific Director of Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute

Tatjana Rundek, M.D., Ph.D., FAANTatjana Rundek, M.D., Ph.D., FAAN, professor of neurology and public health sciences and executive vice chair for research and faculty affairs in the Department of Neurology, has been named scientific director of the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute and Evelyn F. McKnight Chair for Learning and Memory in Aging at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. She has served as the interim scientific director since October 2016.

The Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute at the University of Miami was established in 2007 with a donation from the McKnight Brain Research Foundation and a match from the Schoninger Foundation and other UM donors. Its mission is to discover and explore normal memory changes that happen with age, investigate the causes of age-related disorders of brain function and memory, and develop ways to prevent them.

“I am dedicated to our McKnight Brain Institute’s mission to accelerate discovery of the causes, treatment, and prevention of age-related memory loss and cognitive decline, and to enhance brain health through translational and patient-oriented research,” said Rundek, who also serves as director of the Clinical Translational Research Division in Neurology, and director of the Master of Science Degree in Clinical Translational Investigations.

Born and raised in Zagreb, Croatia, Rundek received her medical degree and neurology training at the University of Zagreb, a Ph.D. in neuroscience in Germany, and completed a research fellowship at Columbia University.

Rundek is a neurologist, clinical researcher, epidemiologist and principal investigator of several R01 grants and foundation awards funded by the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NIH/NINDS). She received a NINDS K24 training grant and research awards from the Hazel K. Goddess Fund for Stroke Research in Women and the Dr. Gilbert Baum Fund in Clinical Ultrasound for best clinical application of ultrasound in investigations of brain hemodynamics.

Rundek was the first Fulbright Scholar at the Neurological Institute at Columbia University. As the International Fulbright Scholar Leader in 1996-97, Rundek gave a presentation on the importance of the international research exchange program at the 1997 Annual UN Assembly in New York. Rundek is a dedicated scientist with a strong commitment to service to the scientific community. She serves on review study sections at the NIH, the American Heart Association, the American Academy of Neurology and on the editorial boards of many scientific journals. She has published more than 400 scientific publications, editorials, reviews and book chapters. Rundek’s professional and scientific interests include genetic, epigenetic and environmental contributions to cerebral small vessel disease, stroke and cognitive decline with a specific focus on health disparities in women and minority populations. Her current investigations involve the vascular mechanisms of successful aging, mild cognitive impairment and dementia, using magnetic resonance imaging and transcranial Doppler challenge testing in collaborations with the Einstein Aging Study in the Bronx, the Northern Manhattan Study, and with other McKnight Brain Institutes at the University of Florida, University of Arizona and University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Rundek is dedicated to brain health education to communities, and to training and mentoring new generations of cognitive neurologists and other professionals needed to overcome challenges of preserving and restoring brain health of the rapidly growing population of older adults in the U.S.

“Dr. Rundek is a wonderful choice as scientific director,” said Ralph L. Sacco, M.D., M.S., executive director of the McKnight Brain Institute, professor and chair of neurology, Olemberg Chair in Neurological Disorders, senior associate dean for clinical and translational science and director of UM’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute. “Her passion for team science and developing new ideas in a truly collaborative manner is very special. I am looking forward to great things under Dr. Rundek’s leadership.”

As interim director Rundek created the Miami McKnight Brain Institute Small Pilot Collaborative Award. The program gave small grants to junior faculty or post-doctoral trainees with promising potential to become successful investigators in age-related memory loss and cognitive decline, supporting research and advancing the McKnight Brain Institute collaborative research project pipeline.

“Dr. Rundek’s background and training, both as a clinician and a research scientist, make her uniquely qualified to advance the research initiatives in cognitive aging leading to the understanding of and alleviation of age-related memory loss, not only at the University of Miami, but throughout the universal scientific community,” said J. Lee Dockery, M.D., chair of the Board of Trustees for the McKnight Brain Research Foundation.

Joyce Gomes-Osman, PhD, PT

Small Pilot Grant Awarded to Joyce Gomes-Osman, PhD, PT

Joyce Gomes-Osman, PhD, PTJoyce Gomes-Osman, PhD, PT is the first recipient of the Evelyn F. McKnight Small Pilot Collaborative Research Award Program (funding period: July 2017- June 2018). She is a rehabilitation scientist with expertise in clinical research that aims to harness plasticity through interventions such as noninvasive brain stimulation (NIBS) and exercise, and assesses their effects on the human nervous system during aging. She did her postdoctoral Fellowship at the Berenson-Allen Center for Noninvasive Brain Stimulation of Harvard Medical School. Her overall research aims to better understand the influence of exercise and its potential to improve function and promote neuroplasticity throughout the lifespan.

Dr. Gomes-Osman’s small pilot research project is entitled Aerobic exercise to influence mechanisms of brain plasticity and cognition in healthy aging. The goal of this study is to compare the effects of a moderate intensity aerobic exercise intervention (delivered at 55-64% age-predicted maximal heart rate) and high intensity aerobic exercise intervention (delivered at 65%-90% age-predicted maximal heart rate) on measures that probe cortical synaptic plasticity using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and neuropsychological tests of cognitive performance in older healthy adults at risk for developing cognitive impairments. Her primary hypothesis is that high-intensity aerobic exercise intervention is associated with a greater increase in measures that probe cortical synaptic plasticity on TMS and with greater increases in processing speed, executive function and attention. She proposed to enroll thirty participants aged 65 years or older with no cognitive impairment (Mini Mental State Exam >24), but with a family history of Alzheimer’s Disease and/or ɛ4 allele carriers from the Evelyn F. McKnight Research Registry and the University of Miami Memory Clinic. The recruitment is currently ongoing