Lippmann wins prestigious Chan Zuckerberg Initiative award to back research in the fight against Alzheimer’s

Ethan Lippmann, associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and biomedical engineering, has won a Collaborative Pairs Pilot Project Award from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) to create a more effective way for the immune system to fight against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Ethan Lippmann

The pilot project seeks to generate an immune response – or defense system – selectively around amyloid beta plaques, which are a key feature of Alzheimer’s disease. More than six million Americans are currently living with the disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Harnessing the immune system to treat neurodegeneration has been a longstanding goal of the research and translational communities. But researchers say it is difficult because many of the tools being used – such as proteins called cytokines – can have severe off-target effects when administered into patients.

Lippmann, in collaboration with Jamie Spangler, a protein engineering expert at Johns Hopkins University, is seeking to design a cytokine that is preferentially activated only when it comes in contact with amyloid beta plaques, restricting the cytokine-mediated immune activity.

“Our project seeks to establish proof-of-concept around this idea,” Lippmann says.

The $200,000 grant is part of the CZI Neurodegeneration Challenge Network (NDCN) that supports pairs of investigators and their teams to explore innovative, interdisciplinary approaches to address critical challenges in the fields of neurodegenerative disease and fundamental neuroscience.

In 2018, Lippmann was awarded a five-year, $2.5 million award from CZI to support his goal of better understanding how blood-brain barrier dysfunction impacts neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Contact: Lucas Johnson,