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Research at Mass General
We take a multidisciplinary, basic science to clinic translational approach to designing patient-oriented experimental and clinical trials for aging, dementia, and other neurodegenerative disorders. These involve advanced digital health assessments, neuroimaging, and ultra-sensitive molecular biomarker detection technologies in blood, cerebrospinal fluid and brain tissue. Learn more on our full website.
Steven E. Arnold, MD Director/Principal Investigator
Dr. Arnold leads a broad clinical and translational research program on Alzheimer’s disease and other neurocognitive disorders of aging. His major interests include clinicopathological correlation studies of molecular markers in human cerebrospinal fluid and postmortem brain tissue, the discovery and validation of biochemical biomarkers for diagnosis and staging of neurodegenerative dementias, and the design and conduct of novel, early phase and proof-of-concept clinical trials. Specific topics of interest in Alzheimer’s disease include laboratory and clinical research studies of brain insulin resistance and cellular metabolic dysfunction, proteomic analyses in brain tissue and cerebrospinal fluid with clinical correlation, and the neurobiological roots of neuropsychiatric dysfunction. Dr. Arnold’s work aims to accelerate therapeutics discovery and development for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias with innovative mechanistic and biomarker-intensive clinical trials.
After receiving his MD from Boston University, Dr. Arnold completed residency training in Psychiatry at the New York State Psychiatric Institute/Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York, and residency training in Neurology at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City. He also completed fellowship training in Behavioral Neurology / Cognitive Neuroscience and was a post-doctoral associate in Neuroanatomy in Iowa. Dr. Arnold is board certified in both neurology and psychiatry. After his training, Dr. Arnold joined the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania where he was Professor of Psychiatry and Neurology until his move to MGH in 2015.
At Mass General, Dr. Arnold is leading the Interdisciplinary Brain Center, a new collaboration of the Departments of Neurology. Psychiatry and the Martinos Center for Neuroimaging. Its mission is to facilitate the discovery, development, and implementation of promising therapeutics and associated diagnostics for individuals with complex brain disorders that affect cognition, behavior and emotion. Alzheimer's disease and related disorders are major disease interests of the Interdisciplinary Brain Center.
Jessica Gerber, Lic. Ac. Program Manager
Jess’s original education and professional development were in the field of manufacturing engineering; however, all along she had an interest in integrative health and decided to pursue a career as an acupuncturist. After owning a clinic in which she saw 60+ patients per week, she transitioned over to the MGH Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging first as a research acupuncturist and then added project manager responsibilities. As a research acupuncturist, her job is to provide acupuncture therapy services to subjects enrolled in ongoing clinical and basic research studies. She continues to perform acupuncture both inside and outside the MRI scanner. As project manager, she supported and facilitated the daily clinical trial activities by working with the PIs, RAs, site support, sponsors and subjects; and she continues to consult on NIH Program Project Grants and other clinical trials for the Martinos as needed.
Alison McManus, DNP, FNP-BC
Clinical Operations Manager
Dr. McManus graduated from The Miss A.J.MacMaster School of Nursing in 1987 and subsequently worked as a Registered Nurse in both the Intensive Care Unit and Emergency Departments for the first 20 years of her career. After receiving her MSN as a Family Nurse Practitioner in 2006, she began working as a Co-Investigator on clinical trials with an infectious disease and internal medicine focus. Upon receiving a Doctorate in Nursing Practice from Rush University under the guidance of Dr. Melanie Dreher (2013), she assumed the role of Principal Investigator becoming one of only a few Nurse Practitioners in the nation who are leading these types of clinical drug trials. Dr. McManus joined the Arnold Lab in June 2018 after relocating to Boston from San Diego. She is looking forward to working with Dr. Arnold and the team at the ACTRU in finding a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease.
Becky Carlyle, PhD Lab Operations Manager
Dr. Becky Carlyle is an Instructor in Neurology at MGH. She uses her expertise in molecular biology and integration of *omics data, particularly RNA sequencing and proteomics, to direct the wet lab at ACTRU. The wet lab handles all the biofluids from ACTRU Clinical Trials, and uses a range of cutting edge technologies to define novel biomarkers for Alzheimer’s Disease, to assess target engagement for novel therapeutics, and for selecting patients for personalized trial approaches. In addition to these clinically focused projects, the wet lab also runs a number of projects focused on disease mechanism, using post-mortem human tissue to define dementia related pathways and the effect of concurrent diseases such as diabetes on the brain.
Becky earned a first class degree in Medical Sciences from the University of Oxford in 2005, then moved to the University of Edinburgh to complete her PhD in Molecular Medicine in 2010. Her interest in personalized medicine began during her PhD where she studied the effect of the DISC1 gene, which is mutated in a family with an enrichment for psychiatric disorders, on the signaling pathways involved in schizophrenia. Becky moved to the USA after her PhD and completed her Post-Doctoral training at Yale University. In the summer of 2017 she moved to Boston to join ACTRU, and is excited to be part of a dynamic and inclusive program that thinks outside the standard paradigms of Alzheimer’s Disease treatment. Each individual that comes to ACTRU has a different disease presentation, a different subset of associated medical conditions, and a unique history. By treating each individual as their own control, we hope to improve the lives of individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease in the short term and make significant steps towards making personalization of dementia treatment a long term reality.
Victoria Williams, PhD Neuropsychologist/Neuroimaging Manager
Dr. Williams is a Research Fellow who oversees patient-oriented clinical research projects within the Arnold Lab. Her work broadly employs neuropsychological assessment and advanced neuroimaging techniques to explore brain-behavior relations in aging and neurodegenerative disease. Whereas her graduate work focused on neurostructural correlates of developmental disorders (e.g., spina bifida, dyslexia), her more current line of research examines the role of modifiable risk factors (such as cerebrovascular health, physical fitness) in typical aging as well as in dementia onset and progression.
Holly Duddy, RN
Holly Duddy was the first Registered Nurse to work in the Alzheimer’s Clinical & Translational Research Unit. Her role encompasses providing clinical patient care, administering cognitive batteries, and management of ordering and organizing nursing supplies as well as creation of nursing source documents and patient education tools for ACTRU. Holly also works in the outpatient Memory Disorders Unit with Dr. Arnold, seeing non-research patients with a variety of memory disorders. Holly’s primary clinical trial within ACTRU is the AbbVie Aware study. Within this study she conducts IV infusions, neurologic and physical assessments, and other clinical interventions. She keeps track of laboratory values, medications, adverse events, and medical histories. Holly’s goal within this study is to provide optimal safety and high-quality care to all patients.
Clinical Research Coordinators
Chase Wennick, BS
Chase is a clinical research coordinator for the Alzheimer’s Clinical & Translational Research Unit. His first study in the lab was investigating the “type-3 diabetes” theory, where participants received infusions of insulin and dextrose while performing several tasks including cognitive testing, EEG, and an MRI. He is currently focused on a study seeking to establish biomarkers from blood and spinal fluid that could potentially be used in a future clinical trial for genetic Prion Disease. Chase is also working to launch a study to see if Efavirenz, an FDA-approved HIV anti-retroviral medication, can be used to activate the CYP46A1 enzyme in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
Chase received his Bachelor of Science in Psychology and minor in Human-Computer Interaction from Carnegie Mellon University in 2015. Before joining the Arnold Lab in the summer of 2016, Chase had previously worked in a language learning lab, a relationships lab, and an HCI research lab.
Jodi Manning, BA
Jodi-Ann Manning is a Clinical Research Coordinator at the Alzheimer’s Clinical & Translational Research Unit. She heads the AbbVie AWARE-tau Study, an Industry-Sponsored Phase 2 Clinical Trial evaluating the efficacy and safety of a novel therapeutic for Alzheimer's Disease, where patients receive monthly infusions of ABBV-8E12, with intermittent cognitive testing, ECGs, blood tests, MRIs and lumbar punctures to evaluate any changes. Jodi is also involved with the Merck Biostamp Study, and other subsequent studies in the lab.
Jodi received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Boston University in 2017. Before joining ACTRU in March of 2018, Jodi worked as a Research Assistant and Senior Research Assistant in the Theoretical Cognitive Neuroscience Lab (TCN Lab) at Boston University. Prior to the TCN Lab, Jodi also worked at the Boston University School of Medicine’s NIH-funded Clinical & Translational Science Institute (CTSI) where she received training on the IRB, HIPAA, Grants Management, Human Subject Protection, and Operations and Finance. Jodi’s hopes to pursue her PhD in Clinical Psychology in the fall of 2020.
John Ernandez, BA
John Ernandez is a Clinical Research Coordinator at the Alzheimer’s Clinical & Translational Research Unit (ACTRU) at MGH. He is the lead coordinator of the Pegasus Study and the Personalized and Adaptive Clinical Trial Alzheimer’s Disease (PACT-AD) Study. The Pegasus Study is a Phase II clinical trial to determine the safety, tolerability, and target engagement of an investigational drug in the alleviation of cognitive symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease. The PACT-AD Study employs a novel multi-crossover design, in which each subject serves as their own control, and daily interactive measures of cognition and mood to better understand and treat Alzheimer’s Disease. He is also involved with the EIP Study and other PACT-AD studies.
John graduated from Boston University in 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts with Honors in Chemistry. John has also worked at the Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research and Treatment (CART) at Brigham & Women’s Hospital. He joined ACTRU in June of 2018 and looks forward to contributing to Alzheimer’s clinical research before attending medical school in the fall of 2019.
Libby DesRuisseaux, BS
Libby DesRuisseaux is a Clinical Research Coordinator at the Alzheimer’s Clinical & Translational Research Unit. She is the lead coordinator for the EIP Study and a Personalized and Adaptive Clinical Trial Alzheimer’s Disease (PACT-AD) trial. The EIP study is a Phase II clinical trial to determine the safety and efficacy of an investigational drug for treatment of cognitive symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease. The PACT-AD trial employs a novel, multi-crossover, “N of 1” design that utilizes cognitive brain training games to evaluate the efficacy of treatment on cognitive and behavioral symptoms of AD. She is also involved with other AD trials in the lab, including the Amylyx Pegasus AD and the other PACT-AD trials.
Libby graduated from Tufts University in 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in Cognitive and Brain Sciences. At Tufts, she worked in cognitive psychology and neuroscience labs, doing research on cognitive aging and Alzheimer’s Disease. She completed a Senior Honors Thesis in neuroscience and psychology that focused on an investigational drug for treatment of AD. She joined ACTRU in June of 2018 and is excited to be a part of their research for the next few years before attending graduate school for clinical neuropsychology in the fall of 2020.
Katie Monahan, BS
Katie is a Clinical Research Coordinator at the Alzheimer’s Clinical & Translational Research Unit. She joined in July of 2018 and is the lead coordinator of the AIA Autonomics study. This study uses a novel device to investigate non-invasive measures of autonomic nervous system physiology and actigraphy as biomarkers of agitation, irritability, and anxiety in Alzheimer’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease Related Dementias. The study will also be doing an exploratory investigation on the effects of acupuncture in this symptomatic population. She will also be involved in other studies in the lab, including the Hereditary Prion Biomarkers study.
Katie graduated from Union College in June of 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in Cognitive Neuroscience. Her honors senior thesis investigated the possible beneficial or harmful implications of proportional macronutrient consumption on cognitive function in a convenience sample of older adults. Her experience working at McLean Hospital sparked her interest in research while her internship in the adult inpatient psychiatric unit at Ellis Hospital generated a passion for mental health. As a result, Katie wishes to pursue her PhD. in clinical psychology after her time at MGH.
Hamed Azami, PhD Postdoctoral Fellow
Dr. Hamed Azami is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Biomedical Signal Processing and Machine Learning at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University. He is working with Dr. Arnold and the team at the Alzheimer’s Clinical & Translational Research Unit in finding effective treatments for Alzheimer’s Disease. His aim is to reveal changes that several neurological diseases and their potential treatments cause in physiological data, especially electroencephalograms and magnetoencephalograms.
Dr. Azami received his Ph.D. in Biomedical Signal Processing from the Institute for Digital Communication, University of Edinburgh, UK, in 2018. His main research interests include biomedical signal and image processing, nonlinear analysis, and machine learning.
Bianca Trombetta, BS Research Technologist
Bianca Trombetta is a research technologist who leads basic science research in the wet lab at ACTRU. Her work primarily focuses on assessing novel biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease and the underlying mechanisms of disease-related pathways. She directs the CMP3 project, a CSF Multiple Pathophysiology Panel that is being developed for disease stratification and evaluating target engagement in clinical trials. Other research projects include biofluid assay development, investigating the relationship between the insulin-signaling pathway and cognition, and managing the LifeSPAN Biobank for Biomarker Discovery.
Bianca graduated from Harvard University with a Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics and a related field in Psychology in 2015. As an undergraduate, she joined a cognitive psychology lab studying the underlying neural networks of bilingualism and learning. She also worked as a research technician at the Harris Orthopedics Lab at MGH, examining the mechanisms of cell integration on biomaterial implant surfaces. She joined Dr. Arnold’s lab, now known as ACTRU, in November of 2015. Her work in the lab sparked an interest in developing new translational research methods for improving patient care and clinical trial outcomes. She is excited to continue doing research at ACTRU as she prepares to pursue a medical degree and a career as a physician-scientist.
David Urick, BS Research Technician
David Urick is a research technician who manages the MassGeneral Institute for Neurodegenerative Disease (MIND) Tissue Bank. The Bank’s mission is to collect and store cerebrospinal fluid, blood and clinical information from individuals with neurodegenerative and other diseases. It is a critical resource for the development of novel biomarkers for neurological disease.
David graduated from the College of Engineering at Northeastern University in 2018. As an undergraduate, he joined the Hyman Lab at Massachusetts General Hospital to investigate the role of apolipoprotein E in the molecular pathology of Alzheimer’s disease. His research encouraged him to gain more direct experience with dementia patients, prompting him to join the ACTRU team. He currently splits his time between the wet lab and the outpatient neurology clinic at MGH. David hopes to continue both interacting with patients and pursuing translational research projects throughout his career.
Savannah Kandigian, BA Research Technician
Savannah Kandigian joined ACTRU’s wet lab as a research technician in June of 2018. She is studying fractionation methods to enable the proteomic analysis of frozen neural tissue at the subcellular level. Furthermore, as a part of the BIRA study she uses immunohistochemistry to study the relationship between insulin resistance and Alzheimer’s in the aging brain.
Savannah graduated from Vassar College in 2018 with a B.A. in Neuroscience and Behavior and a minor in Mathematics. At Vassar, she worked in the laboratory of Dr. Hadley Bergstrom, using mouse models to study both the effects of chronic stress on dendrite morphology as well as the role of alcohol in mediating fear learning and memory. She is excited to be working in a translational research setting and to be a part of the close collaboration between wet lab and clinical researchers at ACTRU. After gaining further molecular biology and proteomics experience at MGH, Savannah plans on pursuing a Ph.D. in molecular neuroscience.
Alzheimer’s Clinical & Translational Research Unit (ACTRU) 149 13th Street, 2nd floor Charlestown MA, 02129
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 617-643-5607 Fax: 617-726-5760
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