UAMS’ Sue Griffin, Ph.D., Honored with Lifetime Achievement Award by Alzheimer’s Association

By Ben Boulden

Griffin has made groundbreaking contributions in the study of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions. She is the Alexa and William T. Dillard professor in geriatric research, director of research at the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and the founding chief editor of the Journal of Neuroinflammation.


Sue Griffin, Ph. D., pauses for a moment before she speaks in 2015 to the audience at a STOP Alzheimer’s event at the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging.

“Together, my UAMS colleagues and I are here to work toward a better understanding of Alzheimer’s disease,” Griffin said. “This award recognizes that I and the scientific team around me have made a major contribution that’s done that, and we are grateful for it. It doesn’t stop there though. We must keep looking for ways to prevent Alzheimer’s while at the same time searching to develop improved therapies and treatments.”

Her pioneering work included the discovery of a type of inflammation in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. Griffin went on to show how this inflammation contributes to formation of amyloid plaques, neurofibrillary tangles, and Lewy bodies in Alzheimer and Parkinson brains as well as its connections to genetic differences that confer greater risk of the disease in certain individuals.

Her current work is building toward therapy with a team-oriented exploration of novel drugs to combat these molecular and biochemical processes.

“Dr. Griffin has been a lifelong innovator, pioneer and trendsetter in science,” said Jeanne Wei, M.D., Ph. D., director of the Reynolds Institute. “She has inspired and supported many young scientists and professionals and continues to contribute to the extremely important area of Alzheimer disease research. She is most deserving of this international award that recognizes her for her groundbreaking ideas and for her perseverance, which are the hallmark of a truly great scientist. We are deeply honored to have her among our distinguished faculty at UAMS.”

Griffin’s perseverance has been an asset. In 1986 when she joined UAMS, Griffin was having a hard time attracting interest in her theory about Alzheimer’s disease. In 1989, she published a landmark study describing how neuroinflammation provokes an out-of-control immune response. Many scientists have since confirmed her findings, and today most in the field accept her theory, and the Alzheimer’s program at UAMS has earned NIH grant awards continuously since 1991.