Bess Frost, Ph.D., assistant professor at the Sam and Ann Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies, the Glenn Biggs Institute for Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Disorders, and the Department of Cell Systems and Anatomy at UT Health San Antonio, is the recipient of the Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas (TAMEST) 2020 Edith and Peter O’Donnell Award in Medicine for her work changing the way we look at Alzheimer’s disease.
“Dr. Frost is an exceptional leader with an endless inquisitive mind. What she has accomplished thus far has enlightened the field and will continue to do so.” said William L. Henrich, M.D., president and professor of medicine at UT Health San Antonio.
By looking at what pathological forms of tau are doing in the brain—why they are causing brain cells to die and thus diminishing cognitive function — Dr. Frost and her team uncover downstream consequences of tau aggregation. They have recently found that pathogenic forms of tau reactivate dormant “transposons” or virus-like “jumping genes” that cause brain cell death. Using an FDA-approved anti-viral medication, Dr. Frost’s team found that transposon activity is pharmacologically targetable.
Dr. Frost is hopeful about the therapeutic potential of her group’s findings, as preventing transposon activity using antiretroviral agents is now being tested in clinical trials for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).
Dr. Frost’s recent studies contribute to her overall body of work that have significantly changed the way the Alzheimer’s disease field understands the disorder. In previous studies, she discovered that pathogenic forms of tau have the ability to spread toxicity between cells. Her findings were the basis for the “prion hypothesis of Alzheimer’s disease,” which is the foundation of multiple ongoing clinical trials.
“We are honored to present Dr. Frost with the 2020 O’Donnell Award in Medicine for changing the way we look at how Alzheimer’s disease effects the brain,” said TAMEST Board President Amelie G. Ramirez, Dr.P.H., of UT Health San Antonio. “The United States has an estimated 5.5 million people living with Alzheimer’s disease, and Dr. Frost’s research hopes to transform medication and therapy for the disease as we know it, to one day prevent the onset of memory loss for Alzheimer’s patients around the world.”
Dr. Frost will be honored during the O’Donnell Awards dinner and reception on Wednesday, January 8, 2020, at the TAMEST 2020 Annual Conference: Innovating Texas–Research to Commercialization. The conference takes place January 7-9, 2020, at the Fairmont Dallas Hotel in downtown Dallas. Media are encouraged to attend the ceremony and the conference.
TAMEST 2020 Edith and Peter O’Donnell Award Recipients:
- Medicine:Susan “Bess” Frost, Ph.D., UT Health San Antonio
- Engineering:Jeffrey Rimer, Ph.D., University of Houston
- Science:Alessandra Corsi, Ph.D., Texas Tech University
- Technology Innovation:Kristine Kieswetter, Ph.D. and Deepak Kilpadi, Ph.D., KCI
The Edith and Peter O’Donnell Awards annually recognize rising Texas researchers who are addressing the essential role that science and technology play in society, and whose work meets the highest standards of exemplary professional performance, creativity and resourcefulness.
Over $1 million has been awarded to more than 50 recipients in the categories of medicine, engineering, science and technology innovation since the inception of the O’Donnell awards in 2006. 11 O’Donnell Recipients have gone on to be elected to the National Academies. Read more about the 2020 Edith and Peter O’Donnell Awards recipients.
TAMEST (The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas) is the state’s premier scientific organization, bringing together Texas’ best and brightest scientists and researchers. With more than 300 members, TAMEST is composed of the Texas-based members of the three National Academies (National Academy of Medicine, National Academy of Engineering, and National Academy of Sciences), the Royal Society and the state’s 11 Nobel Laureates.