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Marcos Frank is leading WSU’s charge to cure neurodegenerative diseases

By Addy Hatch, WSU News

Scientists understand more about ALS and other neurodegenerative diseases than they did a decade ago. Patients and their families are benefitting from new technologies and therapies.

But it’s not enough. “We have far to go and much more to do,” said Marcos Frank, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the WSU Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine.

Frank is a leader in that effort. As a neuroscientist, his research has focused on how brain cells interact to govern complex behavior and brain function.

Now he’ll play a key role in the new Steve Gleason Institute for Neuroscience at WSU Health Sciences in Spokane. The institute, to open later this year, is a collaboration of higher education, businesses, nonprofits and health care organizations that will provide research and care for neurodegenerative diseases.

Frank will lead the Discovery Research Unit in brain research. The Gleason Institute’s integrated approach also will include a Clinical Research & Care Unit, to support clinical trials and new therapies, and an Assistive Technology & Smart Home Center to advance technology that can improve life for patients and their caregivers.

It’s important to Frank that the Gleason Institute take such a comprehensive approach to neurodegenerative diseases. He knows the toll on patients’ families and the stress of caregiving.

“I was drawn to neurodegenerative research, as I think many people are, by having someone in my family who died from one of these diseases,” he said.

ALS WalkFrank, his wife and kids took part in the annual Walk to Defeat ALS this spring, part of a team from WSU Health Sciences. In remarks to the crowd that day, Frank talked about the partnerships that created the Gleason Institute and the important work already being done by nonprofits like Team Gleason and the ALS Association.

He also was candid about the challenges ahead.

“We don’t have a cure for ALS and we lack medications that significantly improve quality of life for patients with ALS,” he said. “And not all patients with ALS have access to therapies and assistive technologies.”

In his lab on the campus of WSU Health Sciences recently, Marcos once again acknowledged the work to be done, but noted, “We’ve just begun this journey of the Gleason Institute. We need the community’s help, but with it we have the potential to do something about ALS and other neurodegenerative diseases, right here in our community.”

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Questions? Contact Brooke Ledeboer, Director of Development at WSU Health Sciences Spokane, at or 509-324-7202.