Brown appoints world expert Bess Frost to lead its Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research

Bess Frost has been appointed the Salame-Feraud Director of the Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research, a joint center between Brown University’s Robert J. and Nancy D. Carney Institute for Brain Science and the Division of Biology and Medicine. 

Frost is coming to Brown from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, where she is the Bartell Zachry Distinguished Professor for Research in Neurodegenerative Disorders and an associate professor at the Sam and Ann Barshop Institute for Longevity & Aging Studies, the Glenn Biggs Institute for Alzheimer’s & Neurodegenerative Diseases, and the Department of Cell Systems and Anatomy. 

In her new role, Frost will direct the Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research, which integrates the expertise within Brown’s Robert J. and Nancy D. Carney Institute for Brain Science and the Division of Biology and Medicine. Bridging laboratory research and clinical studies, the center fosters collaboration across multiple disciplines—such as neuroscience, psychiatry, neurology, cognitive neuroscience, cell biology, epidemiology and computation—to advance prevention, diagnostics and treatments.

“We are thrilled to have recruited Bess Frost to lead the center. She is a phenomenal scientist, a builder, and has great vision. This is a transformative moment at Brown in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease,” said Diane Lipscombe, a professor of neuroscience and the Reliance Dhirubhai Ambani Director of the Robert J. and Nancy D. Carney Institute for Brain Science. “With Bess Frost at the helm, we will be recruiting experts in key fields reflecting the complexity of the disease. Brown has outstanding existing strengths in basic and clinical research, and she will accelerate our focus on research leading to early identification and treatment of those at risk for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.”

Frost’s research focuses on the basic neurobiology of brain aging and neurodegeneration, and the fundamental cellular processes in cell biology that drive tau-induced neuronal death. Her pioneering work demonstrates that tau, a key protein in Alzheimer’s disease and other brain diseases, adopts prion-like characteristics that help explain its pathological spread through the brain.  

“At Brown, we are well-positioned to address Alzheimer’s disease because of the strengths that span from fundamental neuroscience to clinical neurology/psychiatry and policy and public health,” said Dr. Mukesh K. Jain, senior vice president for health affairs and dean of medicine and biological sciences at Brown. “By tapping into our community’s diverse expertise and infrastructure, I am confident that Dr. Frost and her colleagues will significantly impact the field of Alzheimer’s dementia.”  

Bess Frost earned a bachelor’s degree in cellular and molecular biology from the University of Texas, Austin, and a PhD in biomedical science from the University of California, San Francisco. She completed her postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Pathology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School. In 2022, she was a gold recipient of the Oskar Fischer Prize, the world's largest competition to expand society’s understanding of the causes of Alzheimer’s disease. 

Frost’s departmental home will be the Department of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry in the Division of Biology and Medicine. “Professor Frost’s work on tauopathies will complement that of other research groups in our department, as we have a number of biologists using advanced techniques to study the genetic and molecular underpinnings of Alzheimer’s,” said Kimberly Mowry, chair of the department. “Better understanding of these mechanisms will lead to identification of therapeutic targets as well as biomarkers that may enable earlier detection of the disease.” 

The Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research has attracted more than $43 million in philanthropy to date to support its work on biological understanding, early detection, and novel treatment of Alzheimer's disease and related dementias.