Spotlight Series with Dr. Thinakaran, CEO of USF Health Byrd Alzheimer’s Center and Research Institute: Why Brain Health Matters

Why Brain Health Matters

Brain and mental health are a big focus for Beneficial Blends. Research proves that what people consume can greatly affect the health of the brain, which is why we manufacture beneficial-for-you products. Brain health is a critical piece of your overall health. It underlies your ability to communicate, make decisions, problem-solve, and live a productive and useful life. Because the brain controls so much of daily function, it is arguably the single most valuable organ in the human body. We are partnered with the USF Health Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute because of their commitment to advancing brain health and Alzheimer’s research, just like our commitment to manufacturing products that promote brain health and mental wellness. Each year we donate to the University of South Florida Byrd Alzheimer Institute Brain Health Research Fund to assist in investigations that advance its understanding of Alzheimer’s disease as well as help identify new ways to treat the disease.

About ‘the Byrd’

The USF Health Byrd Alzheimer’s Center and Research Institute is dedicated to brain health research and the prevention, treatment, and cure of Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders.

The Institute is a multi-disciplinary center of excellence at the University of South Florida, in Tampa, that provides compassionate family-centered patient care, performs cutting-edge research, and delivers quality public and professional education. With a state-of-the-art building and a highly qualified team of researchers, doctors, clinicians, and educators, the Institute is at the forefront of Alzheimer’s research and care.

“The Byrd” was established in 2002 by the state legislature as an autonomous facility dedicated to finding the cure for Alzheimer’s disease. The main catalyst for this ambitious effort came from then House Speaker, Johnnie Byrd, Jr., whose father suffered from the disease. Mr. Byrd recognized early on the devastating effect Alzheimer’s disease had on families (not just the patient); and he was prescient in understanding the national implications should the disease reach epidemic proportions as the population aged. Beginning in 2009, the Byrd was integrated into USF Health.

The USF Health Byrd Alzheimer’s Center and Research Institute is dedicated to discovering the causes and cures of diseases affecting memory. Through laboratory research and clinical trials, they are working toward the prevention, treatment, and cure of Alzheimer’s disease or related disorders. These clinical trials are run by top academics, doctors, and scientists funded by USF Health and outside donations.

Dr. Thinakaran

We spoke with Dr. Thinakaran, CEO of the USF Health Byrd Alzheimer’s Center and Research Institute, about his role at the Institute, some studies he is currently conducting, and why donations from outside entities are crucial for the continuation of research.

When asked about his role with the Byrd, he stated, “as the CEO of the Byrd Institute, I advocate for the Byrd Institute’s research, clinical, and educational missions. These include promoting Byrd’s clinical and research pursuits, education programs, and services within the greater Tampa area; providing scientific leadership and managing Byrd faculty recruitment; representing Byrd’s research interests at the National and International levels; encouraging public engagement with Byrd clinicians and scientists; and representing Byrd in fundraising activities.”

During his master’s studies, Dr. Thinakaran became very interested in medical research, evidently choosing it as his career. After graduating with a Ph.D., he had the opportunity to train in the Neuropathology Division at the Johns Hopkins University school of medicine, where he was able to participate in Alzheimer’s disease research and train as a molecular neuropathologist.

We asked Dr. Thinakaran to share some of his current research on Alzheimer’s.

“Variants in certain risk factor genes have been found to confer greater risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Research in my lab has been focusing on understanding how a common risk factor gene, called BIN1, elevates someone’s chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Our research from the last three years reveals that BIN1 performs complex functions in the brain. BIN1 promotes pathological tangle formation in neurons, but in non-neuronal cells (microglia), it is required for brain inflammatory response, which often limits Alzheimer’s pathology. We are actively researching how we can reduce the risk posed by this risk factor gene.”

We were curious to know how our donation would directly affect the research program. Dr. Thinakaran shared, “individual donations and philanthropic partnerships are critical to sustaining our ability to perform cutting-edge research to understand what causes this devastating disease, develop strategies to delay the onset, and slow its progression.” Philanthropic support, like from the Beneficial Blend’s Byrd Alzheimer Institute Brain Health Research Fund “will allow us to leverage unique infrastructures, and will also help support the Byrd Institute’s community outreach education to the public on prevention and risk reduction, as well as discussions on promoting brain health through healthy eating and lifestyle.”


Why We Donate

It’s not a party until we’re all having fun. Sometimes that can be hard, especially if you are alone, isolated, or dealing with larger mental health issues. Recognizing our feelings, and seeking help, can be a huge step in the right direction. But not everyone has easy access or the ability to seek out help. That’s why, each year we donate a portion of sales to the University of South Florida Byrd Alzheimer Institute Brain Health Research Fund. Support allows the USF Health Byrd Alzheimer Institute to assist in investigations that advance its understanding of Alzheimer’s disease, help identify new ways to treat the disease and provide information and education to improve care for people with neurological disorders while expanding their knowledge of brain health and disease prevention. The fund will directly contribute to improving the quality of life for people affected by Alzheimer’s disease globally and in our own Tampa Bay community.