McCance Center faculty member and Harvard Medical School Assistant Professor of Neurology Se Hoon Choi, PhD has been awarded a $500,000 grant as a 2022 recipient for The Edward N. & Della L. Thome Memorial Foundation Awards Program in Alzheimer's Disease Drug Discovery Research. 

The Grant

The goal of the Thome Awards Program is to support innovative drug discovery research that will lead to improved therapies for individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Awards are made to researchers dedicated to the validation and testing of target compounds and therapeutic agents including biologics and small molecules, particularly research focused on pathogenic mechanisms including inflammatory response, synaptic toxicity, neuronal toxicity and endosomal/lysosomal trafficking defects.


Dr. Choi has been exploring pathogenic mechanisms of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and the role of adult-generated neurons (adult hippocampal neurogenesis) in the disease in the Genetics and Aging Research Unit.

In 2018, Dr. Choi, along with postdoctoral fellow Dr. Eun Hee Kim and mentor Dr. Rudolph Tanzi, published a paper in the journal Science exploring how exercise improves cognition in transgenic mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease. 

Dr. Choi on the Research: Understanding the Benefits of Exercise in Brain Health

"We previously found that promoting adult neurogenesis and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) mimics the beneficial effects of exercise on cognition in an Alzheimer’s disease (AD) mouse model," says Dr. Choi. "To further advance on that finding, the major goal of this awarded project, entitled ‘Developing Resilient Drugs Targeting Neurogenesis and BDNF for Alzheimer's Disease,’ is to screen for pharmacological and natural compounds that increase neurogenesis (pro-neurogenic compounds) and BDNF (BDNF enhancers) and to determine their therapeutic potential in AD."

"The screening will be accomplished through in vitro neurospheres and primary hippocampal cell cultures and confirmed through in vivo AD mice. We will also test compounds which were already found to increase neurogenesis and BDNF in non-transgenic mice or in animal models of various diseases, in AD transgenic mouse models. Additionally, we will test the identified pro-neurogenic compounds/BDNF enhancers alone as well as with added amyloid-β (Aβ)-reducing agents in AD transgenic mice to determine whether the combined treatment can have a synergistic effect greater than either treatment alone."

"The unique research that we are embarking on could have profound impact on not only our understanding of Alzheimer’s disease, but also an approach to find a pathway for a therapeutic to help those who suffer from it. I am excited by and truly appreciate these opportunities that The Edward N. & Della L. Thome Memorial Foundation Awards Program will allow us to pursue."