Meet Our Team

The ACTRU Team is made up of 15 members. We come from all walks of life focusing on one common goal: Improving the lives of individuals impacted by Alzheimer's Disease.

 
 

Director/Principal Investigator: Steven E. Arnold, MD

 
 

Dr. Arnold leads a broad clinical and translational research program on Alzheimer’s disease and other neurocognitive disorders of aging. His major interests include clinicopathological correlation studies of molecular markers in human cerebrospinal fluid and postmortem brain tissue, the discovery and validation of biochemical biomarkers for diagnosis and staging of neurodegenerative dementias, and the design and conduct of novel, early phase and proof-of-concept clinical trials. Specific topics of interest in Alzheimer’s disease include laboratory and clinical research studies of brain insulin resistance and cellular metabolic dysfunction, proteomic analyses in brain tissue and cerebrospinal fluid with clinical correlation, and the neurobiological roots of neuropsychiatric dysfunction. Dr. Arnold’s work aims to accelerate therapeutics discovery and development for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias with innovative mechanistic and biomarker-intensive clinical trials.

After receiving his M.D. from Boston University, Dr. Arnold completed residency training in Psychiatry at the New York State Psychiatric Institute/Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York, and residency training in Neurology at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City. He also completed fellowship training in Behavioral Neurology / Cognitive Neuroscience and was a post-doctoral associate in Neuroanatomy in Iowa. Dr. Arnold is board certified in both neurology and psychiatry. After his training, Dr. Arnold joined the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania where he was Professor of Psychiatry and Neurology until his move to MGH in 2015.

At MGH, Dr. Arnold is leading the Interdisciplinary Brain Center, a new collaboration of the Departments of Neurology. Psychiatry and the Martinos Center for Neuroimaging. Its mission is to facilitate the discovery, development, and implementation of promising therapeutics and associated diagnostics for individuals with complex brain disorders that affect cognition, behavior and emotion. Alzheimer's disease and related disorders are major disease interests of the Interdisciplinary Brain Center.

 
 

Leadership

Program Manager: Jessica Gerber, MS Lic. Ac. 

Jess’s original education and professional development were in the field of manufacturing engineering; however, all along she had an interest in integrative health and decided to pursue a career as an acupuncturist. After owning a clinic in which she saw 60+ patients per week, she transitioned over to the MGH Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging first as a research acupuncturist and then added project manager responsibilities. As a research acupuncturist, her job is to provide acupuncture therapy services to subjects enrolled in ongoing clinical and basic research studies. She continues to perform acupuncture both inside and outside the MRI scanner. As project manager, she supported and facilitated the daily clinical trial activities by working with the PIs, RAs, site support, sponsors and subjects; and she continues to consult on NIH Program Project Grants and other clinical trials for the Martinos as needed.

Most recently Jess joined neurologist Dr. Steven Arnold’s research program ACTRU as Program Manager. Here she oversees protocol start-up activities for over 15 studies primarily focused on the identification and prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease; eight of these studies are clinical trials with pharma interventions. She coordinates sponsor and regulatory activities, resource allocation and program staffing for all protocols as required.

In addition, Jess is the Program Manager for the newly forming Interdisciplinary Brain Center for Translational and Clinical Research. The IBC will be both a state of the art Clinical and Translational Research Unit shared with the I3 (Institute for Innovation in Imaging) and an academic collaboration between the MGH Departments of Neurology, Psychiatry and Radiology (specifically Martinos Center). Jess contributes by identifying and organizing the facility and service needs of the researchers predicted to use the space. Additionally, she is coordinating all start-up activities related to the CTRU of the IBC/ I3 including but not limited to inputs to the space planning and design, predictive modelling and budget justification, utilization forecasting and staffing. Jess is also helping to coordinate a common assessment that all subjects participating in research at the CTRU of the IBC/I3 could take part in; eventually she will help organize access to this data from researchers from all over the globe.

Jess looks forward to continued collaborations with researchers of all backgrounds to further support the IBC mission which is to facilitate and synergize research for brain disorders.

Lab Operations Manager: Becky Carlyle, PhD

Dr. Becky Carlyle is an Instructor in Neurology at MGH. She uses her expertise in molecular biology and integration of *omics data, particularly RNA sequencing and proteomics, to direct the wet lab at ACTRU. The wet lab handles all the biofluids from ACTRU Clinical Trials, and uses a range of cutting edge technologies to define novel biomarkers for Alzheimer’s Disease, to assess target engagement for novel therapeutics, and for selecting patients for personalized trial approaches. In addition to these clinically focused projects, the wet lab also runs a number of projects focused on disease mechanism, using post-mortem human tissue to define dementia related pathways and the effect of concurrent diseases such as diabetes on the brain.

Becky earned a first class degree in Medical Sciences from the University of Oxford in 2005, then moved to the University of Edinburgh to complete her PhD in Molecular Medicine in 2010. Her interest in personalized medicine began during her PhD where she studied the effect of the DISC1 gene, which is mutated in a family with an enrichment for psychiatric disorders, on the signaling pathways involved in schizophrenia. Becky moved to the USA after her PhD and completed her Post-Doctoral training at Yale University under the guidance of Professors Angus Nairn and Amy Arnsten. During this time she studied the use of extremely old primates as models for the onset of dementia in humans, produced a protein atlas of the human brain which was published in Nature Neuroscience, and developed a cell-type specific method for measuring protein translation dynamics in mouse brain. In the summer of 2017 she moved to Boston to join ACTRU, and is excited to be part of a dynamic and inclusive program that thinks outside the standard paradigms of Alzheimer’s Disease treatment. Each individual that comes to ACTRU has a different disease presentation, a different subset of associated medical conditions, and a unique history. By treating each individual as their own control, we hope to improve the lives of individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease in the short term and make significant steps towards making personalization of dementia treatment a long term reality.

Clinical Research Nurse Manager: Alison McManus, DNP, FNP-BC

Dr. McManus is a Family Nurse Practitioner who supervises translational and clinical trial activities within the Alzheimer’s Clinical & Translational Research Unit. Her work broadly involves the management of the research team engaged in the conduct of sponsor and investigator-initiated trials as well as the clinical care of patients enrolled in clinical research projects within the ACTRU.

Dr. McManus graduated from The Miss A.J.MacMaster School of Nursing in 1987 and subsequently worked as a Registered Nurse in both the Intensive Care Unit and Emergency Departments for the first 20 years of her career. After receiving her MSN as a Family Nurse Practitioner in 2006, she began working as a Co-Investigator on clinical trials with an infectious disease and internal medicine focus. Upon receiving a Doctorate in Nursing Practice from Rush University under the guidance of Dr. Melanie Dreher (2013), she assumed the role of Principal Investigator becoming one of only a few Nurse Practitioners in the nation who are leading these types of clinical drug trials. Dr. McManus joined the Arnold Lab in June 2018 after relocating to Boston from San Diego. She is looking forward to working with Dr. Arnold and the team at the ACTRU in finding a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease.

Neuropsychologist/Neuroimaging Manager: Victoria Williams,PhD

Dr. Williams is a Research Fellow who oversees patient-oriented clinical research projects within the Arnold Lab. Her work broadly employs neuropsychological assessment and advanced neuroimaging techniques to explore brain-behavior relations in aging and neurodegenerative disease. Whereas her graduate work focused on neurostructural correlates of developmental disorders (e.g., spina bifida, dyslexia), her more current line of research examines the role of modifiable risk factors (such as cerebrovascular health, physical fitness) in typical aging as well as in dementia onset and progression.

Dr. Williams received a B.S. in Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin (2008), and subsequently worked as a research assistant at the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging. She received a doctorate degree in Clinical Psychology (Neuropsychology emphasis) from the University of Houston under the guidance of Dr. Jack M. Fletcher (2015), and completed internship within the UCSD/San Diego VA Clinical Internship Training Program. Before joining the Arnold lab in the summer of 2017, Dr. Williams completed a clinical-research postdoctoral fellowship at the Boston VA Hospital investigating how cardiorespiratory fitness attenuates neural and cognitive decline in aging.

 

Clinical Team

 

Nursing

Holly Duddy, RN

Holly Duddy was the first Registered Nurse to work in the Alzheimer’s Clinical & Translational Research Unit. Her role encompasses providing clinical patient care, administering cognitive batteries, and management of ordering and organizing nursing supplies as well as creation of nursing source documents and patient education tools for ACTRU. Holly also works in the outpatient Memory Disorders Unit with Dr. Arnold, seeing non-research patients with a variety of memory disorders. Holly’s primary clinical trial within ACTRU is the AbbVie Aware study. Within this study she conducts IV infusions, neurologic and physical assessments, and other clinical interventions. She keeps track of laboratory values, medications, adverse events, and medical histories. Holly’s goal within this study is to provide optimal safety and high-quality care to all patients.

Holly graduated with her BSN from Salve Regina University in May 2016. Soon after she began working as a telemetry nurse at Falmouth Hospital in Cape Cod, MA. Here she participated in the first new-graduate nurse training program in Massachusetts to be accredited by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. She took care of patients that were ill with a variety of cardiac conditions in addition to several other comorbidities. Holly moved to Boston in May 2017 upon acceptance into Boston College’s Family Nurse Practitioner Master’s Program and shortly after was hired to work with Dr. Arnold on his research team, now known as ACTRU. She intends to graduate as an FNP in May 2020.

 
 

Clinical Research Coordinators

Chase Wennick, BS

Chase is a clinical research coordinator for the Alzheimer’s Clinical & Translational Research Unit. His first study in the lab was investigating the “type-3 diabetes” theory, where participants received infusions of insulin and dextrose while performing several tasks including cognitive testing, EEG, and an MRI. He is currently focused on a study seeking to establish biomarkers from blood and spinal fluid that could potentially be used in a future clinical trial for genetic Prion Disease. Chase is also working to launch a study to see if Efavirenz, an FDA-approved HIV anti-retroviral medication, can be used to activate the CYP46A1 enzyme in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

Chase received his Bachelor of Science in Psychology and minor in Human-Computer Interaction from Carnegie Mellon University in 2015. Before joining the Arnold Lab in the summer of 2016, Chase had previously worked in a language learning lab, a relationships lab, and an HCI research lab.

Katie Monahan, BS

Katie is a Clinical Research Coordinator at the Alzheimer’s Clinical & Translational Research Unit. She joined in July of 2018 and is the lead coordinator of the AIA Autonomics study. This study uses a novel device to investigate non-invasive measures of autonomic nervous system physiology and actigraphy as biomarkers of agitation, irritability, and anxiety in Alzheimer’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease Related Dementias. The study will also be doing an exploratory investigation on the effects of acupuncture in this symptomatic population. She will also be involved in other studies in the lab, including the Hereditary Prion Biomarkers study.

Katie graduated from Union College in June of 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in Cognitive Neuroscience. Her honors senior thesis investigated the possible beneficial or harmful implications of proportional macronutrient consumption on cognitive function in a convenience sample of older adults. Her experience working at McLean Hospital sparked her interest in research while her internship in the adult inpatient psychiatric unit at Ellis Hospital generated a passion for mental health. As a result, Katie wishes to pursue her PhD. in clinical psychology after her time at MGH.

Libby DesRuisseaux, BS

Libby DesRuisseaux is a Clinical Research Coordinator at the Alzheimer’s Clinical & Translational Research Unit. She is the lead coordinator for the EIP Study and a Personalized and Adaptive Clinical Trial Alzheimer’s Disease (PACT-AD) trial. The EIP study is a Phase II clinical trial to determine the safety and efficacy of an investigational drug for treatment of cognitive symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease. The PACT-AD trial employs a novel, multi-crossover, “N of 1” design that utilizes cognitive brain training games to evaluate the efficacy of treatment on cognitive and behavioral symptoms of AD. She is also involved with other AD trials in the lab, including the Amylyx Pegasus AD and the other PACT-AD trials.

Libby graduated from Tufts University in 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in Cognitive and Brain Sciences. At Tufts, she worked in cognitive psychology and neuroscience labs, doing research on cognitive aging and Alzheimer’s Disease. She completed a Senior Honors Thesis in neuroscience and psychology that focused on an investigational drug for treatment of AD. She evaluated the effects of treatment with this drug on the behavior of mouse models of AD and tried to understand the drug’s mechanism of action by comparing AD biomarker presence in mice with and without drug treatment. She joined ACTRU in June of 2018 and is excited to be a part of their research for the next few years before attending graduate school for clinical neuropsychology in the fall of 2020.

Jesse Bailey, AS, BA

Jesse Bailey is a clinical research coordinator at the Alzheimer's Clinical & Translational Research Unit. His works primarily on the LifeSPAN Biobank study, which aims to establish a collection of samples from individuals of all ages, including those with normal cognition, mild cognitive impairment, and dementia.    Jesse received his Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Boston University in 2018 after earning his Associate of Science in Computer Technology from Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology in 2015. Before becoming a part of ACTRU in April of 2019, he focused on technical roles, but he now intends to pursue his PhD in neuroscience after his time at MGH.

Jesse Bailey is a clinical research coordinator at the Alzheimer's Clinical & Translational Research Unit. His works primarily on the LifeSPAN Biobank study, which aims to establish a collection of samples from individuals of all ages, including those with normal cognition, mild cognitive impairment, and dementia.

Jesse received his Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Boston University in 2018 after earning his Associate of Science in Computer Technology from Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology in 2015. Before becoming a part of ACTRU in April of 2019, he focused on technical roles, but he now intends to pursue his PhD in neuroscience after his time at MGH.

 
 
 

Translational Team

Postdoctoral Fellow: Hamed Azami, PhD

Dr. Hamed Azami is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Biomedical Signal Processing and Machine Learning at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University. He is working with Dr. Arnold and the team at the Alzheimer’s Clinical & Translational Research Unit in finding effective treatments for Alzheimer’s Disease. His aim is to reveal changes that several neurological diseases and their potential treatments cause in physiological data, especially electroencephalograms and magnetoencephalograms.

Dr. Azami received his Ph.D. in Biomedical Signal Processing from the Institute for Digital Communication, University of Edinburgh, UK, in 2018. His main research interests include biomedical signal and image processing, nonlinear analysis, and machine learning.

Research Technologist: Bianca Trombetta, BS

Bianca Trombetta is a research technologist who leads basic science research in the wet lab at ACTRU. Her work primarily focuses on assessing novel biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease and the underlying mechanisms of disease-related pathways. She directs the CMP3 project, a CSF Multiple Pathophysiology Panel that is being developed for disease stratification and evaluating target engagement in clinical trials. Other research projects include biofluid assay development, investigating the relationship between the insulin-signaling pathway and cognition, and managing the LifeSPAN Biobank for Biomarker Discovery.

Bianca graduated from Harvard University with a Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics and a related field in Psychology in 2015. As an undergraduate, she joined a cognitive psychology lab studying the underlying neural networks of bilingualism and learning. She also worked as a research technician at the Harris Orthopedics Lab at MGH, examining the mechanisms of cell integration on biomaterial implant surfaces. She joined Dr. Arnold’s lab, now known as ACTRU, in November of 2015. Her work in the lab sparked an interest in developing new translational research methods for improving patient care and clinical trial outcomes. She is excited to continue doing research at ACTRU as she prepares to pursue a medical degree and a career as a physician-scientist.

Postdoctoral Fellow: James Quinn, PhD

Dr. James Quinn will join in May 2019 as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University. He will work with Dr. Steven Arnold, Dr. Becky Carlyle and the team at the Alzheimer’s Clinical & Translational Research Unit (ACTRU) to identify mechanisms underlying dementia, new ways of tracking disease progression, effective new treatments and improved dementia diagnostics. His aim is to analyze blood, cerebrospinal fluid and brain samples of patients with dementia using proteomics and other wet lab techniques. This will hopefully lead to improved dementia diagnosis and the identification of novel therapeutic targets.    James earned a first-class degree in Biology at the University of Sussex in 2015, then moved to the University of Manchester to complete his PhD in Neuroscience and Medicine in 2019. His interest in dementia research began during his undergraduate degree, where he analyzed the interaction between amyloid-beta and tau in Alzheimer’s disease pathogenesis under supervision of Professor Louise Serpell. This provided him with the expertise to undertake a PhD. Here, he studied how proteolytic fragments of tau play a role in the pathogenesis of different types of dementia under supervision of Professor Nigel Hooper and Dr. Katherine Kellett. He showed that the fragmentation pattern of tau was different between rare forms of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. This could have key implications for how the different forms of dementia lead to the disease-specific symptoms seen in patients. He also developed novel proteomic-based diagnostic tests analysing blood samples from patients with Alzheimer’s disease, looking at both the tau peptide signature and a panel of blood proteins. He is extremely excited to join ACTRU and be a part of a creative and dynamic team aiming to personalise dementia treatment, while working towards a goal of living in a society where dementia patients will have an established and effective treatment regime.

Dr. James Quinn will join in May 2019 as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University. He will work with Dr. Steven Arnold, Dr. Becky Carlyle and the team at the Alzheimer’s Clinical & Translational Research Unit (ACTRU) to identify mechanisms underlying dementia, new ways of tracking disease progression, effective new treatments and improved dementia diagnostics. His aim is to analyze blood, cerebrospinal fluid and brain samples of patients with dementia using proteomics and other wet lab techniques. This will hopefully lead to improved dementia diagnosis and the identification of novel therapeutic targets.

James earned a first-class degree in Biology at the University of Sussex in 2015, then moved to the University of Manchester to complete his PhD in Neuroscience and Medicine in 2019. His interest in dementia research began during his undergraduate degree, where he analyzed the interaction between amyloid-beta and tau in Alzheimer’s disease pathogenesis under supervision of Professor Louise Serpell. This provided him with the expertise to undertake a PhD. Here, he studied how proteolytic fragments of tau play a role in the pathogenesis of different types of dementia under supervision of Professor Nigel Hooper and Dr. Katherine Kellett. He showed that the fragmentation pattern of tau was different between rare forms of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. This could have key implications for how the different forms of dementia lead to the disease-specific symptoms seen in patients. He also developed novel proteomic-based diagnostic tests analysing blood samples from patients with Alzheimer’s disease, looking at both the tau peptide signature and a panel of blood proteins. He is extremely excited to join ACTRU and be a part of a creative and dynamic team aiming to personalise dementia treatment, while working towards a goal of living in a society where dementia patients will have an established and effective treatment regime.

Research Technician: Savannah Kandigian, BA

Savannah Kandigian joined ACTRU’s wet lab as a research technician in June of 2018. She is studying fractionation methods to enable the proteomic analysis of frozen neural tissue at the subcellular level. Furthermore, as a part of the BIRA study she uses immunohistochemistry to study the relationship between insulin resistance and Alzheimer’s in the aging brain.

Savannah graduated from Vassar College in 2018 with a B.A. in Neuroscience and Behavior and a minor in Mathematics. At Vassar, she worked in the laboratory of Dr. Hadley Bergstrom, using mouse models to study both the effects of chronic stress on dendrite morphology as well as the role of alcohol in mediating fear learning and memory. She is excited to be working in a translational research setting and to be a part of the close collaboration between wet lab and clinical researchers at ACTRU. After gaining further molecular biology and proteomics experience at MGH, Savannah plans on pursuing a Ph.D. in molecular neuroscience.

 

ACTRU Alumni

David Urick

Daivid Urick left the ACTRU Group in March 2019 to pursue medicine at Duke University School of Medicine.

Daivid Urick left the ACTRU Group in March 2019 to pursue medicine at Duke University School of Medicine.

John Ernandez

John Ernandez left the ACTRU Group in April 2019 to pursue medicine at Harvard Medical School.

 

Jodi Manning, BA

 

Jodi-Ann Manning is a Clinical Research Coordinator at the Alzheimer’s Clinical & Translational Research Unit. She heads the AbbVie AWARE-tau Study, an Industry-Sponsored Phase 2 Clinical Trial evaluating the efficacy and safety of a novel therapeutic for Alzheimer's Disease, where patients receive monthly infusions of ABBV-8E12, with intermittent cognitive testing, ECGs, blood tests, MRIs and lumbar punctures to evaluate any changes. Jodi is also involved with the Merck Biostamp Study, and other subsequent studies in the lab.

Jodi received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Boston University in 2017. Before joining ACTRU in March of 2018, Jodi worked as a Research Assistant and Senior Research Assistant in the Theoretical Cognitive Neuroscience Lab (TCN Lab) at Boston University, under the direction of Dr. Marc Howard, where their goal was to develop physically-constrained models of cognition, with special attention to learning and memory through the use of behavioral experimentation, computational tools and mathematical analyses. Prior to the TCN Lab, Jodi also worked at the Boston University School of Medicine’s NIH-funded Clinical & Translational Science Institute (CTSI) where she received training on the IRB, HIPAA, Grants Management, Human Subject Protection, and Operations and Finance, at the discretion of both the CTSI’s Finance & Operations Manager and the Director of the Clinical Research Resources Office (CRRO) at Boston University Medical School. Clinical Psychology and Psychopathology are Jodi’s main interests, and she hopes to pursue her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology in the fall of 2020.