Dr. Julia TCW: Impact update

Solving humanity’s greatest challenges requires bold, visionary researchers who look beyond the traditional confines of science and medicine to create new possibilities. Karen Toffler Charitable Trust fuels the work of these pioneers through our future-focused framework — one that hinges on early-stage research, high-impact ideas, and cross-disciplinary problem-solving.

Due to the nascent stages of their research, many Toffler Scholars are only able to pursue their cutting-edge work through our funding and support. Additionally, Toffler Scholars often use our funding to show preliminary results, leveraging these successful outcomes to pursue and secure larger grants from more traditional funding sources, like the NIH.

Thanks to initial funding from Karen Toffler Charitable Trust, Toffler Scholar Dr. Julia TCW, assistant professor of Pharmacology, Physiology & Biophysics at Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine, has been able to achieve incredible success. Because her research is at a very early stage, support from the Toffler Scholar Program in 2022 made it possible for her to pursue an innovative idea she had, allowing her to demonstrate its unprecedented value and promise.

As Dr. TCW explains, “I did not expect to get funding for this idea — it is a very different line of inquiry, more futuristic. It’s difficult to get funding without proving that a certain way is the right direction for your research. Sometimes, it requires multiple years of research with experimental evidence to get NIH funding. Funding from the Toffler Trust helps bridge that gap so that this promising idea can move forward.”

Dr. TCW’s overall research is aiming at Alzheimer’s disease therapeutics using human induced pluripotent stem cells and a genetic approach. More specifically, the 2022 Toffler Scholar award allowed Dr. TCW to better understand why the gene apolipoprotein E4 (APOE4) is the strongest genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease by testing her hypothesis of the molecular mechanisms and relationship between APOE4 and astrocytes and microglia.

It’s been just over a year since Dr. TCW earned the Toffler Scholar Award. In that time, the impressive results she’s achieved through her research enabled her to apply for and receive a five-year, $3.9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for her project titled “Elucidating endolysosomal trafficking dysregulation induced by APOE4 in human astrocytes.”

Thanks to funding from Karen Toffler Charitable Trust and this new grant from the NIH, Dr. TCW hopes to better understand the specific mechanisms behind the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and how future drugs might target the disease. She also hopes that eventually, she might be able to use gene editing technology like CRISPR to remove mutations in certain cells, which could provide treatment for Alzheimer’s.

This is yet another example of how Karen Toffler Charitable Trust’s funding fuels the work of ambitious, innovative medical researchers who are working to address humanity’s toughest and most important challenges. Stay tuned for more exciting breakthroughs!