2019 Online - Gold

Sharon Begley described how the dogmatic belief that beta-amyloid deposits cause Alzheimer’s disease has stymied research into other possible explanations of the disease, including inflammation and infection. Several scientists said those who controlled the Alzheimer’s research agenda were a “cabal” that influenced what studies were published in top journals, which scientists got funded, who got tenure and who received invitations to speak at scientific conferences. George Perry, a neuroscientist at the University of Texas–San Antonio, told Begley that scientists who didn't go along with the amyloid hypothesis “became roadkill on the highway to nowhere.”  Begley wrote that “the amyloid camp was neither organized nor nefarious” and that the researchers believed their work would lead to an effective Alzheimer’s drug. It has not turned out that way, however, and one researcher told Begley that “we would be 10 or 15 years ahead of where we are now” if it were not for the focus on amyloid as the only appropriate drug target. In her reporting, Begley looked at the work of an outsider, Robert Moir of Massachusetts General Hospital, who bucked the prevailing theory. She also noted there is a growing amount of research into non-amyloid interventions. Judge Maggie Fox, a long-time medical correspondent for Reuters and NBC News, called Begley’s entry “an important and courageous series.” Richard Harris, science correspondent for NPR, said Begley’s stories offered “an important window into how the institution of science really works.” Begley said she had long heard grumblings that Alzheimer’s researchers who deviated from the dominant hypothesis struggled for funding and recognition. “None would offer specific examples or correspondence documenting this,” she said, “but finally I got lucky, finding well-respected scientists who had experienced this treatment and were willing to talk about it in detail.”