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Ances installed as inaugural Brennan Professor

Research focuses on Alzheimer’s diagnosis, treatment

by Tamara BhandariMay 7, 2018

Matt Miller

Beau M. Ances, MD, PhD, has been named the inaugural Daniel J. Brennan, MD, Professor of Neurology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Using state-of-the-art imaging techniques, he works to develop diagnostic tools and treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.

He was installed by Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton and David H. Perlmutter, MD, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.

“Dr. Brennan left a generous bequest to support Alzheimer’s disease research at Washington University,” Wrighton said. “It is a privilege to establish this professorship in his name. The inaugural holder of this professorship, Beau Ances, is a gifted scientist who already has made great contributions to understanding Alzheimer’s. We are fortunate to be able to recognize and support Beau’s outstanding work with this endowed professorship.”

Ances, a professor of neurology, of radiology and of biomedical engineering, showed that the network of connections within the brain changes as Alzheimer’s disease progresses, with some changes occurring before symptoms appear. He also found that accumulation of the protein tau is closely linked to the onset and worsening of symptoms such as memory loss and confusion, and to the death of brain cells.

“Beau’s research has changed our understanding of Alzheimer’s disease,” Perlmutter said. “His work will lead to new ways to prevent and treat this devastating disease.”

Using brain imaging techniques, he found functional and structural changes to the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease and linked such changes to cognitive problems such as difficulty concentrating and clumsiness.

Along with his research into Alzheimer’s, Ances has studied the neurological impact of HIV infection in children and adults.

“Beau has made groundbreaking contributions to many aspects of neurology, including neuroimaging and HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders,” said David Holtzman, MD, the Andrew B. and Gretchen P. Jones Professor and head of the Department of Neurology. “He is also an exceptional clinician, particularly noted for the quality of care he provides for people with neurological problems due to HIV infection and autoimmune inflammation in the brain.”

Ances earned a bachelor’s degree in international relations and biology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1993, followed by a master’s degree in health planning and finance from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the London School of Economics in 1994. He then entered the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine, obtaining a doctoral degree in neurosciences in 2000 and a medical degree in 2001. There, he completed his internship and residency training. In 2005, he became a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, San Diego.

In 2008, he joined the faculty at Washington University School of Medicine. He was recruited by John C. Morris, MD, the Harvey A. and Dorismae Hacker Friedman Distinguished Professor of Neurology, who became a supportive and encouraging mentor to Ances.

Among Ances’ many awards are the Eric C. Raps Memorial Prize for Excellence in Clinical Neurology, the Arthur Asbury Neurology Resident Award, the Alzheimer’s Association New Investigator Award, and the Dana Foundation Brain Immuno-Imaging Scholarship. He was featured in the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) 2017 special “Alzheimer’s: Every Minute Counts.”

Daniel J. Brennan, MD, left a bequest to the School of Medicine to create the Daniel J. Brennan, MD, Research Fund to support Alzheimer’s disease research. In 2017, a portion of his gift was used to establish the Daniel J. Brennan, MD, Professorship in Neurology in the Charles F. and Joanne Knight Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.

Brennan was born in St. Louis and earned his medical degree from Saint Louis University in 1967. He completed a general surgery and then a plastic and reconstructive surgery residency there.

A benefactor of medical education and research, Brennan established a scholarship fund at Saint Louis University for medical students in need of assistance. He chose Washington University School of Medicine for his gift to support research because of its national leadership in the field of Alzheimer’s disease research and his admiration for the work being done at the Knight Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.

Washington University School of Medicine’s 1,300 faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is a leader in medical research, teaching and patient care, ranking among the top 10 medical schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.