That roadmap includes millions in NIH funding devoted to research on Alzheimer's. Two trials will begin immediately -- $8 million for a clinical trial of a potential treatment for early Alzheimer's -- an insulin nose spray -- and $16 million to study the potential for a treatment to target amyloid, the brain hallmark of Alzheimer's disease, in Colombian people who are healthy but with a genetic mutation that puts them at high risk for developing the disease.
The initiative is part of the National Alzheimer's Plan Act, signed into law by President Obama in January, which marks $50 million for Alzheimer's research in fiscal year 2012 and another $100 million in fiscal year 2013.
NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins said the pledge would help researchers amp up current efforts to investigate the disease.
"We are at an exceptional moment scientifically for Alzheimer's with more revelations about the nature of this disease," Collins said in the meeting. "But this is not about just celebrating where we've come from, but rolling up our sleeves to see where we can go."
According to the Alzheimer's Association, caring for people with dementia cost $200 billion this year alone, and could reach $1 trillion by 2050. The disease is physically and mentally devastating, not just for patients but for families and caregivers who struggle to care for them.
To help embattled caregivers, the government launched www.alzheimers.gov, an online resource for patients, families and caregivers looking for information on dementia and where they can get help, and is assigning $26 million to provide resources for patients and caregivers, including support in local communities and a public awareness campaign with TV, radio, online and outdoor ads.
Sebelius said she hoped the government's effort would lead to a strikingly different picture of Alzheimer's disease in the U.S. by 2025.
Ambitious? Yes. But Caselli said that's not necessarily a bad thing.
"Having a date gives everyone a more tangible sense of urgency, something to work towards, and again, that can only help," he said.