6.9 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, and that number is expected to double by 2050. Loved ones and communities lose people every day they need and value. What an honor it is to be chosen to lead an organization with the incredible mission of finding a cure.

During the last nine years, I have had the privilege of working directly with scientists from around the world who are dedicated to unraveling the causes of Alzheimer’s and developing effective therapies and methods of prevention. To be able to report that in 2023 CureAlz funded 147 researchers in 11 countries with a new record for total research spending of $27.8 million both gratifies and humbles me. The project delays and extensions of COVID-19 are behind us and incredible progress is being made in our fully operational research labs around the world.

2023 was an extraordinary year marked by the first regular FDA approval of a disease-modifying therapy for mild cognitive impairment due to Alzheimer’s disease. Leqembi®, developed by pharmaceutical companies Eisai and Biogen, is designed to reduce the amount of aggregated amyloid beta in the brain. In Leqembi’s Phase 3 clinical trial, treated participants experienced cognitive decline at a 27% slower rate than that experienced by control participants. Thus far, this class of drug is of benefit only to those in early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, and it achieves a slowing of the progression of the disease and not a reversal. Treatment is administered intravenously and carries the risk of serious side effects. Despite these limitations, Leqembi should be celebrated for the real progress it represents as we continue to work for improved therapies in the future.

Leqembi and the other drugs in its class essentially emulate naturally occurring proteins. Our bodies generate them in response to the presence of amyloid beta in order to trigger clearance by the brain’s innate immune system. One of the key insights that led to these drugs can be traced back to a 2005 paper from CureAlz-affiliated scientists Drs. Rudy Tanzi and Rob Moir. However, numerous previous Phase 3 clinical trials of similar drugs removed amyloid beta but failed to achieve clinical benefits. The story of Leqembi, and other drugs like it, reminds us that medical progress can be very slow and in anything but a straight line—but every failure we have experienced as a field has helped us get closer to this day, and to the future day when we have effective therapies for everyone at every stage of Alzheimer’s disease.

The Amyloid Cascade Hypothesis of Alzheimer’s Disease postulates that aggregation and accumulation of misfolded amyloid beta protein in the brain triggers downstream consequences that include tau pathology, neuroinflammation, neurodegeneration and cognitive decline. The failure of past clinical trials of anti-amyloid therapeutics challenged this hypothesis and led many industry participants to abandon amyloid as a target. However, data from across the CureAlz portfolio of scientific projects has consistently supported the centrality of amyloid, and so CureAlz has continued to fund projects focused on amyloid and its role within the cascade.

The benefit to patients seen in trials of recent anti-amyloid drugs like Leqembi is gratifying reinforcement of our founding principle to always follow the science. While the challenges of this complex disease are many, CureAlz and our scientific community are energized by our progress and ready to continue to push forward.

Achievements like this have long been imagined by our organization’s Founders. Sadly, this year we lost our Co-Chair and Founder Jeff Morby, whose vision, determination and drive contributed greatly toward the progress we now are experiencing. I miss his incisive questions and fierce insistence that CureAlz always find and fund the best science and the best scientists. While we mourn this significant loss, we continue the work that he inspired with enthusiasm and conviction.

As CEO, I get to experience Cure Alzheimer’s Fund in a new way. I work more closely with the entire CureAlz team, who have always impressed me with their expertise, diligence and dedication to our mission. In 2023, we promoted our Controller, Jo Antonellis, to Chief Financial Officer, and Julie Harris, Ph.D., to the role of Executive Vice President, Research Management. Our research team is growing in numbers and scientific training and, under Julie’s leadership, they are maintaining our founding principle that all of our scientific decisions are made by leading scientists active in the field.

We have also been able to maintain our founding principle that all general donations go to our research program thanks to operational support from our Board, Trustees and certain other donors who support Cure Alzheimer’s Fund’s operations. I am grateful to them for enabling our team to share our message, raise funds and act as responsible stewards for general donations. I value the opportunity to be accountable to their high standards and celebrate that their $5.8 million in Foundation Fundraising in 2023 translated into $29 million for General Fundraising, a 5x multiplier that will drive our 2024 research program.

“To be able to report that in 2023 CureAlz funded 147 researchers in 11 countries with a new record for total research spending of $27.8 million both gratifies and humbles me.”

One of the most extraordinary benefits of my new role is that I get to meet more of you, our partners, who in 2023 donated a record-breaking $34.8 million through more than 22,000 gifts. Hearing about the deep impact Alzheimer’s has had on you and your families is meaningful and inspirational to me and the entire CureAlz team. In 2024, we will bring more science and scientists to you through online and other events and on our website; I hope you will meet us there.

Thank you for joining Cure Alzheimer’s Fund in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. We celebrate the progress that has been made while staying determined to enable the research necessary to answer the vital questions that remain.



Meg Smith