School of Medicine’s JungA “Alexa” Woo wins 2023 Trubatch award for advancements in Alzheimer’s disease research

JungA “Alexa” Woo, an assistant professor in the Department of Pathology at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, won the 2023 Janett Rosenberg Trubatch Career Development Award for research in understanding and treating Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and other neurodegenerative diseases.

JungA “Alexa” Woo

At the annual meeting of The Society for Neuroscience (SfN), Woo was recognized for her work in AD and her significant contributions to the growth of women in the field of neuroscience.

Over the course of her career, Woo has explored the intricate web of structural and signaling proteins that mediate neurodegeneration, such as occurs in Alzheimer’s disease. One of the earliest and most prominent events in AD is abnormally high levels of the tau protein, which leads to the formation of dangerous fibrous tangles inside brain cells.

It has long been recognized that AD and other diseases related to aberrant tau occur more frequently in females than males, and that females also accumulate more tau protein than males. However, why this happens has not been understood.

Recently, Woo demonstrated that a neuroenzyme that inhibits the normal cellular recycling of tau protein in the brain is significantly more prevalent in the brains of female AD patients than in males. She additionally showed that using a drug to block the activity of this enzyme prevents this effect in a mouse model of AD, thereby identifying a new way to potentially protect female patients.

“I am honored to have received this award from one of the world’s preeminent neuroscience societies,” said Woo. “The significance of this award to me as a female scientist is profound as I’m currently undergoing tenure review. The award’s emphasis on supporting successful academic transitions on the path to tenure is incredibly meaningful.”

The Janett Rosenberg Trubatch Career Development Award promotes successful academic transitions prior to tenure by recognizing early‐career professionals who have demonstrated originality and creativity in their research. The award is supported by the Trubatch Family and includes a $2,000 prize.

“Dr. Woo’s achievements and career trajectory in the field of neurodegenerative disease are most impressive, and it is wonderful that she has been recognized with this highly esteemed award,” said Andrew A. Pieper, Rebecca E. Barchas MD Professor in Translational Psychiatry. “She is also recognized as a highly effective teacher and provides an inspiring role model for scientists at earlier stages of their own careers.”

“I am thankful for this opportunity and deeply appreciate it, especially considering the challenges many female scientists encounter in transitioning to faculty roles and establishing their career,” Woo added. “It is a constant source of gratitude for me that my career achievements represent not only my personal success but also make a substantial contribution to a field that has profound implications for human health and well-being.”