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The Scientists


Dr. Francisco Lopera

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Dr. Lopera is a physician, neurologist and professor at the University of Antioquia with a subspecialty in neuropediatrics from the Catholic University of Louvain. As a medical resident in the 1980’s, he was led by curiosity to spend many weekends visiting small towns to speak to patients suffering from dementia without realizing that he would eventually map the world's largest population with early onset familial Alzheimer's linked to a mutation in the presenilin 1 gene. Dr. Lopera’s friendly, charismatic personality earned him the trust of patients and families, an accomplishment that has been as important as the science behind this story.

As Chief of the Neuroscience Group of Antioquia (GNA), he and his lab investigate neurodegenerative diseases and treat patients with Alzheimer's Disease, CADASIL, Parkinson's, Huntington's, Frontotemporal Dementia and other forms of dementia. He is the principal investigator of the first preventive clinical trial in Colombia for Alzheimer's disease called API Colombia. His work has been instrumental in gaining the recognition and funding for the creation of an International Center for Clinical Trials in Medellin which will be inaugurated in 2022.  He has received numerous awards, including the Alejandro Ángel Escobar Award for exact, physical and natural sciences in 1997 and 2013; and the Bengt Winblad Lifetime Achievement Award by the Alzheimer’s Association in 2020.


Dr. Kenneth S. Kosik

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Dr. Kosik completed a B.A. and M.A. in English literature before changing courses and becoming a physician neuroscientist. He was a professor at the Harvard Medical School when he heard of Dr. Lopera’s research in the mid 90’s and became intrigued by the large number of cases of what seemed to be a hereditary form of dementia. Recognizing the “natural laboratory” that existed in Antioquia, he offered to help identify the gene responsible and the two began a decades-long collaboration. Since 2004, Dr. Kosik has been the Harriman Professor of Neuroscience and Co-Director of the Neuroscience Research Institute at the University of California Santa Barbara. 

He has conducted seminal research in Alzheimer's disease genetics and cell biology, co-authored Outsmarting Alzheimer’s Disease, and co-founded the Learning and the Brain Conference for educators. His work with Dr. Lopera in Colombia on familial Alzheimer’s disease has appeared in the New York Times, BBC, CNN, PBS and CBS 60 Minutes. He has received numerous awards, including the Potamkin Prize in 2021, which is often referred to as the Nobel Prize for Alzheimer’s research.


Dr. Lucia Madrigal

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A co-founder of the Neuroscience Group of Antioquia (GNA) with Dr. Lopera, Dr. Madrigal’s exhaustive genealogies over more than 30 years have been crucial for identifying the extended families with hereditary early-onset Alzheimer’s that make up the Colombian cohort. She received a degree in psychology from the Universidad San Buenaventura de Medellín, and a Ph.D. in Clinical and Health Psychology Research from the University of Malaga, Spain. Dr. Madrigal is a researcher, nurse and has extensive experience in comprehensive accompaniment to caregivers, families and patients with neurodegenerative diseases. Her publications include topics such as gender violence and care of patients with neurodegenerative

diseases. She has been awarded various prizes for her research, Including the Alejandro Ángel Escobar Award for exact, physical and natural sciences in 1997 and, “Epic Woman” yarumaleña ambassador 2021.


Dr. David Aguillón

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Dr. Aguillón began collaborating with Dr. Lopera in 2011 while he was a medical student at the University of Antioquia. He also worked at the neurobank established by the Neuroscience Group of Antioquia (GNA) to analyze the brains of patients who died with dementia. Dr. Aguillón is a physician and professor at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Antioquia and a Doctoral student in Basic Biomedical Sciences with an emphasis on Neurosciences. He joined the GNA in 2016 and currently leads its medical team. Traveling throughout Colombia with Dr. Lucia Madrigal in search of families with autosomal dominant Alzheimer's disease, the research team identified 13 families with genetic variants in PSEN 1.  Dr. Aguillón has participated in various investigations related to this cohort. His research focuses on identifying biomarkers aimed at the early detection of the disease and its application in pharmacological and non-pharmacological prevention studies. He is passionate about offering these crucial resources to families in need.


Dr. Juliana Acosta-Uribe

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Dr. Acosta-Uribe received her medical degree from the University of Antioquia in 2013 and was a clinical researcher with the Neuroscience Group of Antioquia (GNA) when Dr. Lopera and Dr. Kosik began their collaboration to identify the cause of familial early-onset dementia in an extended family cohort. Three years later, she began working with Dr. Kosik at the University of California, Santa Barbara using computational methods to better understand the genetic history of the large Colombian cohort. She obtained her MA and Ph.D. in molecular, cellular and developmental biology from UCSB and is now conducting research on Alzheimer’s Disease from the perspective of population and medical genetics. She is interested in how the demographic history and population dynamics shape the genetic burden for illnesses.

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