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Researcher profile: Dr. Haakon Nygaard
Dr. Haakon Nygaard comes to the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health (DMCBH) from Yale University, where he completed his internship in Internal Medicine, Residency in Neurology, and a PhD in Investigative Medicine under the mentorship of Dr. Stephen Strittmatter. He joined the Yale faculty as an Assistant Professor in Neurology, and during this time he co-founded the first Alzheimer’s clinic at Yale, and was the founding director of the Yale Behavioral Neurology and Neuropsychiatry fellowship program. Dr. Nygaard spent most of his time working on translational models of Alzheimer’s disease, and early clinical trials of novel therapeutic interventions.
He is one of 3 lead investigators in a large NIH-sponsored trial using the cancer drug saracatinib in mild Alzheimer’s disease (AD). He was lead author of the phase Ib study of this drug completed earlier this year, and is overseeing a multi-site phase IIa study slated for initiation later this fall.
Dr. Nygaard is the new Fipke Professor in Alzheimer’s Research in the Faculty of Medicine, and will be seeing patients in both the Alzheimer’s clinic and at the UBC Hospital, and conducting research here at the DMCBH. He will also be overseeing the UBC site which will be enrolling patients in a 1-year study of saracatinib for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. His continuing research interests include a potential role for anti-convulsant drugs in treating Alzheimer’s disease, which have shown promise in preclinical models of the disease. While he spends most of his time asking why some people get Alzheimer’s disease, he is also interested in why many never do.
“I am tremendously honoured to be the inaugural Fipke Professor in Alzheimer’s Research,” says Dr. Nygaard. “Just as Mr. Fipke persevered in his quest to find diamonds in North America, we will work tirelessly towards an effective therapy for people living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.”
Alzheimer’s research at UBC and the DMCBH recently received a generous endowment by Canadian geologist and philanthropist Charles Fipke, whose most recent gift will support Dr. Nygaard’s research and efforts in finding a novel treatment for this debilitating neurodegenerative disease.
To better understand the healthy brain, Dr. Nygaard leads a project to sequence the genomes of centenarians in search for a genetic cause of dementia-free aging. As both a clinician and a scientist, Dr. Nygaard hopes to bridge the gap between basic science and clinical neurology to facilitate novel therapeutic development in AD.