Dr. Tom Mosley, director of the MIND Center at UMMC, speaks at the dedication as Ambassador John Palmer looks on.
Dr. Tom Mosley, director of the MIND Center at UMMC, speaks at the dedication as Ambassador John Palmer looks on.

The University of Mississippi Medical Center announced on Monday a $10 million donation from the Gertrude C. Ford Foundation to advance research into dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In return, the University’s Memory Impairment and Neurodegenerative Dementia Center will become the Gertrude C. Ford MIND Research Center.

At the dedication ceremony, Dr. Tom Mosley, director of the MIND Center, said that as the country’s population ages, research into degenerative brain diseases has become an urgent priority. This donation helps the MIND Center continue to spearhead innovation.

“The sense of urgency cannot be overstated,” Mosley said. “We’re in a hurry. This will speed it up.”

Ambassador John Palmer, chair emeritus of the MIND Center, also spoke, acknowledging that his quest for a cure is personal. Both his wife and mother-in-law suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.

“And there are two others that motivate my (involvement) — my daughters Susan and Patricia,” Palmer said. “My hope is that they will enjoy a future different from their mother and grandmother.”

UMMC established the MIND Center in 2010 with a grant from the National Institutes of Health. But Mosley said UMMC’s history with neurodegenerative research actually dates back 25 years to studies the medical center conducted on obesity and strokes.

“We’re one of the few studies nationally that can go back and see if (data) predicts changes later,” Mosley said. “So the more we study about dementia and changes in the brain — they start much earlier and are actually linked to blood sugar and hypertension.”

In the 1990s, Mosley, who was working on that research, said he had noticed lesions in brain scans of patients in their 40s and 50s that he thought might be harbingers of neurodegenerative disease. At the time he said few others jumped on board.

“And now we’ve shown that these tiny lesions in the 1990s are an early sign,” Mosley said.

The Ford MIND Research Center will occupy 15,000 square feet on the first floor of the Translational Research Center, which is scheduled to open in 2017. Research clinic offices will be in the west wing; the east wing will house research and administrative space for scientists and operations staff, bringing both sides together for the first time.

“All our scientists will be under one roof, and we sincerely believe that will stimulate discovery and innovation,” Mosley said.

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Larrison Campbell is a Greenville native who reports on politics with an emphasis on public health. She received a bachelor’s from Wesleyan University and a master’s from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.Larrison is a 2018 National Press Foundation fellow in public health, a 2019 Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Massachusetts fellow in health care reporting and a 2019 Center for Health Journalism National Fellow.