Accelerating Alzheimer’s research

World-renowned Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center named for Charles F. and Joanne Knight

Charles F. and Joanne Knight

Joanne and Charles F. Knight


Washington University has recognized Charles F. and Joanne Knight by naming its world-renowned Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center in their honor. The Knights have long been generous supporters of the School of Medicine and leaders in providing funding for Alzheimer’s disease research. They have committed more than $15 million to advance Alzheimer’s research at Washington University School of Medicine.

“This magnificent gift from Chuck and Joanne Knight will enable significant progress in the fight against Alzheimer’s, benefiting future generations enormously,” says Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton. “I personally am convinced that Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most serious problems of the 21st century. This gift is another reflection of the extraordinary generosity of the Knights to Washington University and the community.”

This gift will serve as a catalyst for exploring opportunities at the forefront of Alzheimer’s disease research. The funds will be used to support research efforts and to recruit and retain the most talented physicians and scientists, helping the Charles F. and Joanne Knight Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center initiate and conduct projects that otherwise would not be possible.

Joanne Knight became familiar with Alzheimer’s when her mother developed the disease in the 1980s. “We saw firsthand how this disease affects patients and their families,” she recalls. “We also saw that Washington University is at the forefront of Alzheimer’s disease research, and their work offers hope that one day there will be truly effective therapies for treatment.”

“The School of Medicine is a leader in Alzheimer’s research,”Charles F. Knight says. “Researchers here are pursuing treatments that could one day dramatically improve the lives of millions of individuals worldwide. We want to do our part to fulfill that goal.”

Studies in Alzheimer’s disease will lead to advances in early detection and treatment: Principal investigator John C. Morris, MD, Knight ADRC director, with Joy Snider, MD, PhD.

The Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC) was founded in 1985 by Leonard Berg, MD, a pioneer in Alzheimer’s disease research who passed away in 2007. Research at the center seeks to distinguish between normal effects of aging on memory and the earliest symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and establishes that the causes of Alzheimer’s disease begin damaging the brain decades prior to the first appearance of clinical symptoms.

“The Knight Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center is making great advances in understanding Alzheimer’s, as physicians and researchers home in on early detection as well as potential treatments to halt the progress of this terrible illness,” says Larry J. Shapiro, MD, executive vice chancellor and dean of the School of Medicine. “The unwavering loyalty and generosity of Chuck and Joanne Knight will allow us to make even greater advances.”

“This extraordinary gift, as well as those from others, will help us keep the Knight ADRC at the forefront of worldwide efforts to improve our ability to diagnose, treat and one day prevent Alzheimer’s disease,” states John C. Morris, MD, the Harvey A. and Dorismae Hacker Friedman Distinguished Professor of Neurology and director of the Charles F. and Joanne Knight ADRC.

“The acceleration in research and development that the Knights’ generous support helps enable is coming at a crucial time,” says David M. Holtzman, MD, the Andrew B. and Gretchen P. Jones Professor and chair of the Department of Neurology at the School of Medicine and neurologist-in-chief at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. “The age groups at highest risk for Alzheimer’s disease are increasing in number faster than they ever have before, and to prevent the potentially enormous economic and human costs of the epidemic of Alzheimer’s that will result, we must find new solutions for diagnosis and treatment.”

The Knights’ other gifts to the School of Medicine — including the Joanne Knight Breast Health Center and Breast Cancer Program at the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center and the Charles F. and Joanne Knight Distinguished Professorship in Orthopaedic Surgery — reflect their support for improving community health and wellness. In addition, the Knights have made many significant gifts to the John M. Olin Business School.   

Charles F. Knight is chairman emeritus of Emerson and a former member of Washington University’s Board of Trustees. He chaired Barnes Hospital from 1991 to 1995, when he helped engineer the formation of BJC HealthCare and served as its chairman from 1993 to 1998. The hospital’s Knight Emergency and Trauma Center was named for him in 2002. Both Charles F. and Joanne Knight have been awarded honorary doctoral degrees from Washington University.

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