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Duke University researcher Allen Roses, renowned for Alzheimer’s work, dies at age 73

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Allen Roses, Who Upset Common Wisdom on Cause of Alzheimer’s, Dies at 73

Field Loses Another Pioneer with Passing of Allen Roses, 73


Oct 04, 2016

Allen Roses, a professor of neurobiology at Duke University School of Medicine, has died. He was 73.

Roses is known for his contribution to Alzheimer's disease research, the News and Observer reports. While at Duke in the 1990s, he and his team linked the disease to the APOE gene, a finding that was met with skepticism, the paper notes.

"He wasn't shy about standing up to his critics," Kathleen Welsh-Bohmer, the director of the Bryan Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at Duke, tells the News and Observer. "He was fearless."

In 2009, Roses and his team linked another gene, TOMM40, to Alzheimer's. Zinfandel Pharmaceuticals — a company started by Roses that same year — is working with Takeda on a phase III clinical trial to gauge whether TOMM40 can act as a biomarker for disease risk and if the diabetes drug Actos can delay disease onset.

Prior to re-joining Duke in 2008, Roses was a senior vice president at GlaxoSmithKline, where he led its genetics research and pharmacogenetics section. He also founded Cabernet Pharmaceuticals that year to offer pharmacogenetics and project-management services to pharma, biotech, and academic groups.

More recently, Roses implicated a simple sequence repeat in Lou Gehrig's disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. He told GenomeWeb last month that his team developed a database of short structural variants, which they used to identify a simple polyT sequence repeat near an ALS-linked gene.

GenomeWeb's Turna Ray notes that Roses' work — such as his ApoE and TOMM40 findings — has often been controversial. And his recent focus on short structural variants was trying to spur the field to move beyond genome-wide association studies.

"He treated every day like it was his last one because he knew it probably was," Stephanie Roses, his daughter, tells the News-Observer. Roses had suffered two heart attacks prior to the fatal one last Friday. "He lived that way for the last 26 years," she adds.

Even until recently, "he was still doing everything at 100 miles per hour," she says.


Renowned Neurologist, Dr Allen Roses, Dies at Age 73

World-renowned neurologist, geneticist, and Alzheimer's researcher Allen David Roses, MD, FRCP, died suddenly on September 30 at the age of 73.

Dr Roses suffered a heart attack at Kennedy International Airport, in New York City, while on his way to a medical conference in Greece, his daughter Stephanie Roses told the New York Times.

In a statement acknowledging his contribution to Alzheimer's research, the Alzheimer's Association said, "Roses was a visionary and innovator in the fields of neurology, genetics, and drug development. His work significantly advanced our knowledge and understanding of Alzheimer's disease.

"Roses was keenly interested in uncovering the genetic and metabolic causes of Alzheimer's disease, and their connections to age of onset of dementia symptoms. He led the team that in 1992 identified apolipoprotein E4 as a major susceptibility gene in late-onset Alzheimer's disease. In 2009, Roses and colleagues linked the TOMM40 gene to risk for, and age of onset of, Alzheimer's," the Alzheimer's Association said.

Dr Roses was the Jefferson-Pilot Corporation Professor of Neurobiology at Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, North Carolina. He was chief of the Division of Neurology at Duke for more than 27 years, founding director of the Joseph and Kathleen Bryan Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, and director of the Center for Human Genetics.

In Durham, Dr Roses was an avid fan of Duke men's basketball, with season tickets for 44 years. He was chairman of the American Dance Festival and founding member of Judea Reform Congregation. He served as a captain in the US Air Force as an MD in Vietnam and marched against the war in Washington, DC.

Dr Roses graduated summa cum laude with Phi Beta Kappa honors from the University of Pittsburgh and earned his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania.

For 10 years, Dr Roses served as senior vice president of research and development at GlaxoSmithKline and was owner and chief executive of Zinfandel Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

"Moving between academia and industry, Roses formed one [of] his several companies to test both a means of predicting cognitive decline in older adults and the ability of a repurposed diabetes drug to delay the onset of mild cognitive impairment due to Alzheimer's in a global prevention trial called the TOMMORROW Study, which remains ongoing," the Alzheimer's Association said.


Dr Roses served on the Alzheimer's Association's board of directors from 1991 to 1999 and on the association's medical and scientific advisory board.

His obituary notes that Dr Roses is survived by his wife and "partner in neuroscience" Ann Saunders, PhD; daughters Maija Roses, Stephanie Roses, Joanna Roses Ryan, and Michelle Roses Holleman; sister Estelle Irizarry; and grandchildren Jillian Ridlehoover, Sarah Ridlehoover, Connor Ryan, and Cameron Ryan.

Memorial contributions may be made to the American Dance Festival, PO Box 90772, Durham, NC 27708.

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