Roberta Diaz Brinton, PhD, director of the University of Arizona Center for Innovation in Brain Science (CIBS) will be honored as the Arizona Bioscience Researcher of the Year by the Arizona Bioindustry Association (AZBio) at the 2022 AZBio Awards event Sept. 28 at the Phoenix Convention Center.
Dr. Brinton is a Regents Professor of Pharmacology with an additional appointment in neurology in the UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson and a member of BIO5 Institute. She returned to her alma mater in 2016 to create CIBS, a hybrid university/biotech research center designed to advance cures for Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, through integrated discovery, translational and clinical science. Since its inception, CIBS has received more than $112 million in grants to advance cures for these neurodegenerative diseases.
“My vision for CIBS was borne from the idea of creating a research ecosystem that improves access to cross-disciplinary knowledge, expertise and perspectives. It would also serve as a proving ground for the next generation of scientists, with experienced researchers working side by side with graduate and undergraduate students,” Dr. Brinton said. “We’re an ‘all brains on deck’ research environment, designed for integrated collaborative research through innovative team science.”
Dr. Brinton is focused on creating cures for Alzheimer’s disease that affect thousands of people in Arizona and millions around the world. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, causing nerve cells in parts of the brain involved in cognitive function to be damaged or destroyed. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 12.7 million people in the U.S. ages 65 and older will have the disease by 2050. Two-thirds will be women.
“I am deeply honored to receive this uniquely Arizona recognition and share this award with my team of extraordinary researchers,” Dr. Brinton said. “We are dedicated to preventing and curing Alzheimer’s for Arizonans and the world.”
Dr. Brinton has received more than two decades of funding from the National Institute on Aging, a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), including a $37.5 million grant to conduct a Phase 2 clinical trial of allopregnanalone, a potential regenerative therapeutic for Alzheimer’s disease and a $7.6 million grant to test the safety and efficacy of PhytoSERM, a selective estrogen receptor beta modulator that promotes estrogenic action in the brain without affecting reproductive tissue including breasts and the uterus.
“Dr. Roberta Diaz-Brinton is an internationally recognized expert in the cause and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Joan Koerber-Walker, MBA, president and CEO of the Arizona Bioindustry Association. “Her findings have shaped how the field understands the disease and unlocked the potential for new and innovative therapies to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s. Her research shines a light on the important role that gender can play in the treatment of a disease that is extremely challenging for both patients and caregivers.”
In August 2022, Dr. Brinton was among the 30 members of the inaugural class of Women of Impact, honored for extraordinary contributions to UArizona’s identity as a world-class research enterprise. In February 2021, she was inducted as a Regents Professor, joining an elite group of full professors whose exceptional achievements merit national and international distinction.
Dr. Brinton earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and biology, a master’s degree in neuropsychology and a doctorate in neuropharmacology and psychobiology, all from the University of Arizona. As a NIH postdoctoral fellow, she did her fellowship in neuroendocrinology at Rockefeller University. Dr. Brinton served as the R. Pete Vanderveen Chair in Therapeutic Discovery and Development at the University of Southern California School of Pharmacy before returning to UArizona.
According to the AZBio website, the award is given to a life science researcher in Arizona who has made significant contributions to the advancement of knowledge and understanding of biological processes. Contributions are measured by publications, scientific accomplishments and professional recognition of work in an academic or industry setting. Last year’s recipient, Janko Nikolich-Zugich, MD, PhD, will present the award to Dr. Brinton during the ceremony.