56 CharlesE.KaufmanFoundation 57 RE P ORT TO THE COM M UNI TY THE P I TTSBURGH F OUNDATI ON 57 RE P ORT TO THE COM M UNI TY THE P I TTSBURGH F OUNDATI ON AstoldtoCristinaRouvalis,afreelancewriterinPittsburgh AIZENMAN: The Kaufman grant is great. It is paying for part of the salary for people in both of our labs. And what’s nice is that it will lead to something else — another grant proposal. The Kaufman grant will allow us to generate preliminary data, and when you write an NIH grant, you need very strong preliminary data. The stronger you go in, the better. PALLADINO: The Kaufman grant enabled us to hire full-time people in the lab and not just limp along. It brings some kind of validation. It’s a step in the right direction. AIZENMAN: This is exactly the kind of collaboration I’m looking for. A lot of people say, “Yeah, yeah, that sounds interesting,” and then nothing happens. I’m not a fly person, so I really couldn’t do it myself. Michael saw that the idea was really good. And he contributed some interesting modifications to the idea. Eventually, we want to translate it to mammalian systems and eventually to people. PALLADINO: I think that’s the strength of the fly model. Instead of a research course of two years in a rodent model or 60 or 70 years in humans, it’s all sort of compressed down to a month, a month and a half, with a fly. Our mutants only live four to six weeks, so we can measure changes in characteristics such as cell death, behavioral function and longevity every three or four days. We can understand very quickly the dynamic progressive dysfunc- tion that happens over the lifespan of these animals. AIZENMAN: We aren’t in it for the fame or money or anything like that.Wereallyareinterestedinbasicdiscoveryandcuringdisease. And I’m hoping by the time I retire, preferably before I die, that one of those strategies, not necessarily from my lab, not neces- sarily from Michael’s lab, but one of these strategies that people have been working so hard over many years will actually protect neurons from dying. Because we have nothing right now… You never know who’s going to make the next big discovery. DR. ELIAS AIZENMAN:I think all these diseases are appearing more because we’re getting older. I don’t think we were meant to live this long. Before, you reproduced, you died and the clan moved on. PALLADINO: When I first started here 14 years ago, research funding was actually pretty good. It’s just been a constant slide since then. In the last eight years or so, it’s been tough. AIZENMAN: [President] Clinton doubled the NIH [National Institutes for Health] budget, and that was a good period. And then we had two wars and a slash in taxes, and things started to get tough. Obama stabilized the system, prevented it from getting really bad. Now we don’t really know where we stand. All the indications are that the current administration wants to slash funding. We are constantly writing grant [applications]. PALLADINO: It’snotwhatwesignedupfor,thisperpetualbegging formoney.Itslowsdownthescience.Itusedtobeyoulocked yourselfintheofficeforamonthortwo,wroteagrantortwo, andoneofthemwouldgetfunded,andyoucouldworkinthe labforayearortwo.Now,youendupspendingtoomuchtime writinggrantsandnotenoughtimeinthelabbeingascreative asyoucould.Ithamstringswhatyoucando.Youendupwriting thegrantthatcanbefunded,soyouletwhatyouthinkcanbe fundedguideyourthinking,notyourcreativity.That’stherisk. Therearen’tenoughpeoplebranchingoutintonovelareas. DR. MICHAEL PALLADINO:My mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease about a year ago. It’s frustrating and sad. I have been in the field for a long time, but it’s hard to anticipate what it is going to be like [when it affects you personally]. She’s not forgetting names, but she’ll get very nervous and not sleep well for days, or even weeks.