The National Academy of Medicine selected Randall Bateman for his work in discovering the causes of Alzheimer’s disease, developing the first highly specific blood test for Alzheimer’s and initiating the first Alzheimer’s prevention trial.
Bateman, who earned two bachelor's degrees from WashU in 1995, one in Biological & Engineering Sciences and one in Electrical Engineering, and his medical degree from Case Western Reserve University, pioneered a technology that lets scientists monitor the brain’s production and clearance of important proteins. This technique, known as stable isotope-labeling kinetics (SILK), was developed to measure the production and clearance of proteins that can cause Alzheimer’s disease in people. Bateman’s lab used SILK to demonstrate that clearance of amyloid beta is impaired in people with Alzheimer’s disease, while people with rare mutations produce too much of the sticky amyloid-beta protein. Then, his lab demonstrated that amyloid-plaques are associated with increased tau production, the other protein of Alzheimer’s disease production, linking amyloid and tau together to indicate how Alzheimer’s may be caused. The technology also has helped scientists assess the effectiveness of experimental Alzheimer’s treatments.
Bateman has been at the forefront of efforts to develop diagnostic tools for Alzheimer’s disease. With colleagues, he developed a blood test for amyloid and a separate test for tau, another Alzheimer’s protein. Both tests detect signs of the disease in people before symptoms arise. Once drugs are available to halt the disease process, having a simple blood test that identifies people on track to develop dementia while they are still mentally sharp would allow for early treatment that potentially could vastly reduce the burden of this very common and devastating disease.
Bateman directs the Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer Network (DIAN), an international research partnership focused on understanding rare forms of Alzheimer’s disease caused by gene mutations. People who inherit such mutations are all but guaranteed to develop Alzheimer’s at a young age — in their 50s, 40s or even 30s. In 2012, Bateman created the Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer’s Network-Trials Unit (DIAN-TU) platform, the first clinical trial to test whether drug treatments prior to dementia can prevent Alzheimer’s. The DIAN-TU includes participants from DIAN families and other families with dominantly inherited Alzheimer’s and completed several studies with drugs designed to disrupt the accumulation of the Alzheimer’s protein amyloid beta in the brain. The DIAN-TU platform is continuing prevention trials and targeting tau.
In his clinical role at Washington University, Bateman treats patients with dementia and has been the primary mentor for junior faculty, clinical fellows, postdoctoral researchers and graduate and medical students. He has advised or consulted for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Food and Drug Administration, and biotech and pharmaceutical companies and has 47 active or pending patents. Bateman’s many honors include the Chancellor’s Award for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the MetLife Award in Medical Research and the Potamkin Prize for Research in Pick’s, Alzheimer’s, and Related Diseases.