The American Academy of Neurology (AAN) is awarding two California researchers the 2017 Potamkin Prize for Research in Pick’s, Alzheimer’s and Related Diseases for their work in dementia research. Claudia Kawas, MD, of the University of California, Irvine, and Kristine Yaffe, MD, of the University of California, San Francisco, both members of the AAN, will be honored at the American Academy of Neurology’s 69th Annual Meeting in Boston.

Sometimes referred to as the Nobel Prize of Alzheimer’s research, the Potamkin Prize honors researchers for their work in helping to advance the understanding of Pick’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and related disorders. The $100,000 prize is an internationally recognized tribute for advancing dementia research.

Kawas and Yaffe, who work independently of each other, will be recognized for their research on the epidemiology of Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

Kawas will be recognized for her dementia research on people who are 90 years old and older, called the “oldest-old.” More than 1,700 people have enrolled in her 90+ Study, one of the largest studies of the oldest-old in the world. Despite being the fastest growing population segment throughout much of the world, little is known about these pioneers of aging.

“More than half of the children born in developed countries today are expected to reach their 100th birthday or more,” Kawas says in a release. “Preventing dementia and improving quality of life as we age will benefit all of us individually, as well as have an enormous public health and economic impact.”

Yaffe’s work focuses on the identification of modifiable risk factors, including cardiovascular and metabolic risk factors, sleep disturbances, and traumatic brain injury. The results of her research in these areas highlight the critical role of modifiable risk factors, not just in late life, but across the lifespan. Her work also provides important insight into the pathways that increase dementia risk.

“Our research on modifiable risk factors for dementia prevention is important both for individual patients who are concerned about their cognitive health, and for public health prevention,” Yaffe says. “Addressing these risk factors could be a fundamental component of our strategy for slowing down the dementia epidemic.”

The Potamkin Prize is made possible by the philanthropic contributions of the Potamkin family of New York, Philadelphia, and Miami. The goal of the prize is to help attract the best medical minds and most dedicated scientists in the world to the field of dementia research. The Potamkin family has been the Academy’s single largest individual donor since 1988, providing more than $2 million to fund the Potamkin Prize.