Jada Lewis, Ph.D.

Professor of Neuroscience

College of Medicine

2023 Awardee

Jada Lewis specializes in the study of the root causes of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders, including Parkinson’s disease, frontotemporal dementia and ALS. Her research focuses on creating and studying genetically manipulated mouse models to understand the development of disease, and two of her novel models of pathogenic tau are used by labs across the world.

Lewis, who is also deputy director of the McKnight Brain Institute, introduces mutant human genes associated with human disease into the mouse genome, then studies the neuropathology, biochemistry and molecular structures to analyze the interaction of proteins critical to the disease process.

She first became interested in this line of research while witnessing the toll these diseases took on two beloved relatives and their caregivers.

“While I was a postdoc, I had family members who were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and a related dementia, and so it became personal for me,” she said. “I can potentially complete this great thing that can have an impact on tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of lives.”

Lewis enrolled at the University of Tennessee at age 16, and at 19 she began graduate school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she also earned her doctorate in genetics and molecular biology. She then completed two postdocs, one in pharmacology at UNC and the second in neuroscience at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, from where she was recruited to UF in 2010.

With funding from the NIH and Florida Department of Health, Lewis has authored over 85 peer-reviewed publications. She co-founded and leads the Southeastern Neurodegenerative Disease Conference, which brings together top researchers from institutions including UF, Emory, University of Miami and Mayo Clinic-Jacksonville and is sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Association.

Lewis co-directs a T32 from the National Institute on Aging to train pre-doctoral students and, as co-founder of the MBI’s Education and Outreach Committee, she works to develop new and innovative training opportunities.

Lewis has trained close to 30 undergrads and 10 grad students.

“Our legacy is not just what we do in our own lab — it is also training students who then go on to solve their own questions. They’re going to have a bigger legacy than anything I can do in my lab on my own.”