Celebrating 2023’s Progress and Breakthroughs

Since our official launch in 2019, The Karen Toffler Charitable Trust (KTCT) has been providing essential funding and forging meaningful connections to support, promote, and advance the work of researchers who are exploring medical solutions at the furthest edges of science.

By enabling these innovative investigators to conduct their high-risk, early-stage research, we’re doing more than celebrating the legacy of our founders, Alvin and Heidi Toffler. We’re continuing their life’s work. And so is every member of our community of supporters.

To date, KTCT has granted 60 Toffler Scholar awards, partnered with 11 universities, and distributed $2,438,000 in progress-driving funding. We’re excited to celebrate some of our landmark achievements over the past year, and we look forward to the new possibilities our work will be fueled in 2024 and beyond.

Celebrating Our 2023 Toffler Scholars

This year we named a total of 13 Toffler Scholars — our largest class of Toffler Scholars yet. Each one is conducting groundbreaking research to understand, treat, and even prevent the neurodegenerative diseases and cognitive disorders that impact the lives of millions of people throughout the world.

  • Andrew Holbrook, UCLA – Creating algorithms that can detect meaningful phenotypes from brain images in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Ashley Carey, Temple University – Developing a better understanding of cardiovascular risk factors in Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Calina Glynn, Harvard – Understanding how protein structure relates to function and disease.
  • Elena Barbieri, Northwestern University – Learning more about the areas of the brain that are responsible for language difficulties in patients with aphasia.
  • Jackson Mace, Johns Hopkins University – Halting the chronic loss of brain and spinal cord tissue that occurs in patients with multiple sclerosis.
  • Jean-Pierre Roussarie, Boston University – Deciphering the molecular events leading to neurodegeneration in Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Jie Chen, Florida State University – Understanding the bio-behavioral and multi-omnic mechanisms of pain and pain self-management.
  • Kimberly Kwei, Columbia University – Developing a better understanding of gait issues in Parkinson’s disease.
  • Marcelle Dina Zita, Johns Hopkins University – Understanding inflammatory immune-mediated responses that drive autoimmune pediatric cardiac pathology.
  • Ted Zwang, Harvard – Using implantable electronics and virtual reality (VR) to understand aging and neural circuitry.
  • Valerie Arboleda, UCLA – Leveraging genomic tools to understand how human genetic variations cause disease.
  • Xiping Zhan, Howard University – Gaining a better understanding of the basic components of the brain involved in multisensory integration in the auditory system.
  • Yingzhi Ye, Johns Hopkins University – Learning why a pathological protein is mass localized in patients with ALS.

Learn More About Our Toffler Scholars

Inviting Bold Thinking to Pave the Way for Medical Breakthroughs

KTCT exists to ensure that researchers who are at a pivotal stage in their careers can continue to be curious, bold, and even daring in their thinking — all with the aim of shedding new light on global human health challenges that continue to elude our understanding. 

By supporting research considered too early and high risk for traditional funding channels, KTCT is driving forward not only groundbreaking medical solutions, but the community of innovators who can create them for years to come.

As Northwestern University Toffler Scholar Dr. Joe Mazzulli states, “Funding like this is a huge benefit because it allows you to take those high-risk, high-reward chances.” This sentiment is shared by many of Dr. Mazzulli’s fellow Toffler Scholars, including University of Florida’s Adithya Gopinath, one of our inaugural Toffler Scholars.

“We’re studying dopamine in the peripheral immune system, which is a very, very new field,” Gopinath explains. “Only about 300 people in the world are doing this, so it’s really difficult to persuade the people who review government grants that what we’re studying actually means what we think it means.”

2023 Exeloop for Toffler Scholars

September 7 of this year marked KTCT’s first in-person Exeloop session for our Toffler Scholars. The goal of this session was to push research forward through strategic cross-collaboration, networking, and discourse. Hosted by our partner Boston University, this year’s Exeloop focused on the importance of collaboration in medical research. 

Participants were invited to explore the topic via “systems of systems” thinking, which uses the human body’s interdependent systems as a framework for collaboratively exploring, discovering, and developing novel avenues for medical research. Attendees discussed how their research efforts overlapped and connected, literally and theoretically, within these biodynamic systems, and identified potential opportunities for cross-collaboration on projects. 

By the evening’s end, participants named five possible pathways for joint collaboration, one of which is already underway via a quick-turn proposal from Harvard and UCLA. KTCT is now looking for partners to share in the funding of this project and is working with the KTCT community to bring to life the remaining four joint collaboration research initiatives. 

“It was so exciting to hear about the amazing research being done, and it opened so many possibilities of collaboration in a near- or further future. I can’t wait to start working with the other Toffler Scholars that could be potential collaborators and to update you on our progress.”

– Jean-Pierre Roussarie, 2023 Toffler Scholar, Boston University

2023 Exeloop Roundtable Dinner

On September 6, KTCT hosted our second Exeloop Roundtable Dinner, a gathering of thought leaders and innovators. This event inspired an engaging discussion about how research is changing and what that means for today’s organizations and the future they are trying to create. Attendees concluded that collaboration between academia, industry, government — as well as private sector engagement, infrastructure development, and cultural change — will shape the path forward. Collaborative funding models can also help drive success, fueling cross-sector and -industry partnerships that would enable us to develop new metrics for valuation and mitigate the disconnect between divergent incentives. 

This and future Exeloop Roundtable Dinners promise to be a great resource for innovative thinkers seeking to be part of the KTCT network and the world-changing work we do.

“It is rare to be in a room with leaders across science, economics, investment, and entrepreneurship to discuss what it would take to mobilize our greatest minds to conquer something as generationally consequential as Alzheimer’s. Taking risks, challenging the status quo, and embracing optimism were cross-cutting themes I carry into my work as CEO.”

– Cait Brumme, CEO, MassChallenge

If you are interested in hearing more about these initiatives and possibly supporting, please reach out to Rebecca Bartoli at rbartoli@tofflertrust.org, or Deb Westphal at deb@debwestphal.com.

Learn More About Exeloop

Discussing the Impact and Evolution of the Trust on Newt’s World Podcast

On October 23, our Executive Advisor Deborah Westphal and Toffler Scholars Adithya Gopinath (University of Florida) and Dr. Vijaya Kolachalama (Boston University) were guests on Newt’s World, a podcast hosted by former House Speaker, professor, historian, and futurist Newt Gingrich. Listeners learned about KTCT’s founding and purpose, its impact to date, and its ongoing evolution. They also heard about the groundbreaking neurological medical research being conducted by each of the Toffler Scholars.

Listen to the Episode

Help Human Progress Possible

Your critical funding and support drives human progress in some of the most daring yet promising areas of medical and scientific research. To date, the generous donations of people like you have enabled innovative investigators to expand their parameters and — in doing so — push beyond the limits of what their predecessors thought possible. This type of convention-defying approach is a hallmark of human progress, and it is how, together, we will create a brighter future for humanity.

If you would like to learn more about KTCT or help us make human progress possible, reach out to us today.

Learn How to Get Involved

Thank you for helping to make KTCT’s ambitious vision a reality. We are so grateful for your continued support.

To the future!