Newswise — Arlington, VA – June 15, 2021 – The IDSA Foundation announces a call for applications for the 2021 Microbial Pathogenesis in Alzheimer’s Disease Grant. The $1.7 million grant, an increase from $1 million in 2020, will fund the advancement of novel research into possible links between infectious diseases and the causation of Alzheimer’s disease.

Evidence suggests Alzheimer’s disease may have a link to infectious diseases or a microbial mechanism, but limited funding in the field has left this potential link largely unexplored.

“Longitudinal studies could help uncover links between microbial pathogens and chronic disease, including Parkinson’s disease, stroke, colorectal cancer and neurological diseases, but few have been conducted,” said Cynthia Sears, MD, FIDSA, professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and chair of the Microbial Pathogenesis in Alzheimer’s Disease Grant review panel. “If a link to Alzheimer’s is uncovered, it could provide an early clue to help predict future cognitive decline, paving a way for new treatments that could help slow the progression of the disease.”

Now in its fourth year, the grant awards support innovative research, including basic, clinical and/or non-traditional approaches. These include techniques that span the breadth of the microbial world. Projects may focus on bacteria, fungi, parasites, viruses and microbial synergy, among other possibilities.

The grant supports various levels of researchers across all disciplines who might otherwise have trouble lining up for innovative proposals in a competitive grant funding landscape. This includes MDs and PhDs, as well as clinical and basic scientists around the world.

Last year, the Microbial Pathogenesis in Alzheimer’s Disease Grant awarded more than $1 million in grant funds to 11 researchers across a wide range of health-related fields, including infectious diseases, neurology, microbiology, pathology, immunology, virology and neurosurgery. Grants from the program have funded proposals ranging from epidemiology and animal studies to data analytics and microbiology.

Early results from the grant program have helped generate more interest in the link between pathogens and Alzheimer’s disease. The National Institutes of Health recently launched its first program to fund research in the field.

Allison Aiello, PhD, MS, a professor of epidemiology at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and one of the program’s first awardees in 2018, used her $50,000 seed grant from the program to explore the role of dementia-associated pathogen burden in the development of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. By analyzing data on more than 5,000 people over 65, she found that people with high CMV antibody levels had cognition four to five years below age norms. She also discovered that those who did not finish high school were at greater risk for low cognition than more educated people.

To help improve early detection of Alzheimer’s, Dr. Aiello plans to conduct additional cohort studies that could reveal initial signs of cognitive decline.

“More and more evidence shows these processes start early,” she said. “We want to do more in-depth cognitive impairment studies and collect markers of CMV, infections and Alzheimer’s disease starting when people are younger.”

With increased funding available for the 2021 cycle, the program offers grants that range from $30,000 to $250,000 per project. Award amounts will be based on the merits of projects presented and selected.

New this year, early-career investigators, including senior trainees and fellows, are eligible to apply for grants at the $30,000 level. Other levels of grants have changed this year as well, including the addition of up to four $250,000 awards to established investigators who have already launched or developed initial research in the area of microbial triggers for disease. The Foundation has also added a $50,000 level for past awardees who have demonstrated significant progress in initial research findings and are looking to further their research.

Applications are now open and will close on Aug. 31. Interdisciplinary research is encouraged, and international applicants are welcome. Applicants do not need to be an IDSA member to apply.

To apply or learn more about eligibility and past winners, visit

Funding for the Microbial Pathogenesis in Alzheimer’s Disease Grant program is supported through a partnership with the Alzheimer’s Germ Quest and The Benter Foundation.




About IDSA Foundation

Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, the IDSA Foundation is the nation’s leading nonprofit organization committed to reducing the burdens of infectious diseases worldwide. Founded in 2001, the IDSA Foundation is the Infectious Diseases Society of America’s charitable arm, committed to providing career development opportunities, supporting education and funding groundbreaking research. Through its work, the Foundation invests in the next generation of diverse ID leaders, supports innovative research and promotes advancements in patient care.

About Alzheimer's Germ Quest

Alzheimer’s Germ Quest is a public benefit corporation with the mission of accelerating and deepening investigations into possible microbial causes of Alzheimer's disease.

About The Benter Foundation

The Benter Foundation was founded in 2007 to help communities and individuals thrive. Since then, the Foundation has invested to advance a more livable Pittsburgh, emphasizing the city’s urban core. Reaching beyond Pittsburgh, the Foundation supports peacebuilding efforts and innovators who create new knowledge to tackle large scale issues. Pathbreaking solutions are needed in health challenges like Alzheimer's disease and opioid abuse. The Benter Foundation believes that the battle against Alzheimer's will be won through innovative scientific research.