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El Faro Health & Therapeutics now enrolling participants in Alzheimer's study

Despite the highest incidence of dementia, this is the first-ever Alzheimer’s clinical study in Starr County

El Faro Health & Therapeutics will begin screening volunteers for its first-ever clinical trial in Rio Grande City, TX. The Bio-Hermes Study, sponsored by the Global Alzheimer’s Platform Foundation® (GAP), seeks volunteers with or without memory concerns to help assess blood and digital tests that could help predict the presence of amyloid plaques in the brain.

Dr. Falcon, a family physician, regional heath authority and Baylor College of Medicine Trustee, and his son Dr. James Falcon, founded El Faro to provide access to research opportunities and mitigate the impacts of Alzheimer’s for families in their native Rio Grande Valley. El Faro recently joined GAP-Net, a global consortium of over 100 clinical trial sites, working to find a cure for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. GAP-Net membership gives the site unique access to resources that aid in trial management, recruitment, and success.

“El Faro offers people in Starr County desperately needed access to Alzheimer’s resources, education, and research opportunities. That begins with GAP’s Bio-Hermes study,” said Dr. Antonio Falcon. “The Alzheimer’s public health crisis happening in Starr County and communities like ours across the nation highlights why we need to direct our attention to providing clinical trials in underrepresented communities.”

Bio-Hermes is the first-ever platform study to compare the results of blood and digital biomarker tests, including digital cognitive and voice assessments, with the results of brain amyloid PET scans and traditional cognitive tests. GAP’s Bio-Hermes study database will allow scientists to assess the ability of each biomarker, or combination of biomarkers, to indicate the accumulation of amyloid in the brain – the hallmark of Alzheimer’s. The use of biomarkers could lead to earlier and more frequent detection of Alzheimer’s disease, affording those affected an opportunity to seek early intervention, including participation in clinical trials for Alzheimer’s prevention or treatment.

Understanding Alzheimer’s disease is particularly important in a community like Starr County – which is 97% Hispanic – with the highest prevalence of Alzheimer’s in the country at nearly 23% and has severely lacked local, accessible research opportunities before the opening of El Faro. Nationally, Hispanics are 1.5 times more likely to have Alzheimer’s or other dementias but are also less likely to be diagnosed due to misdiagnosis, lack of accessibility, language barriers, and certain health factors. As a result, Hispanics are often diagnosed later in the disease progression, with fewer options for treatment and research.

“El Faro will be a case study in how to bring complex clinical trials and resources to rural communities, especially traditionally underrepresented communities,” said John Dwyer, President of GAP. “In working with El Faro to enroll in Bio-Hermes, we are demonstrating to the world that it is possible to make progress toward true equity in Alzheimer’s research through partnering with local leaders and their communities.”

The Bio-Hermes study is unique in that the sponsor has committed to holding the trial open until at least 20% of participants are Hispanic and Black. The study, on schedule to be completed in April, is on track to meet this goal. This is unheard of in Alzheimer’s research, and medical research more broadly. The Bio-Hermes goal is four times the national average for enrollment from traditionally underrepresented communities.

The Bio-Hermes study offers volunteers a study-related PET brain scan at no cost. PET scans are particularly valuable for the Alzheimer’s community as they are the gold standard for a diagnosis and allow individuals critical information to help take charge of their brain health, however, they are prohibitively expensive.

Volunteers for the Bio-Hermes study must be between 60-85 years old and have someone who can participate with them as a study partner. The study includes two visits with site staff and one visit to a local imaging center for three months, with the potential for a follow-up phone call (if needed).

El Faro will address the disproportionate levels of Alzheimer’s in the Rio Grande. GAP’s collaboration with Dr. Falcon and local partners is one further example of GAP’s commitment to diversity and inclusion in clinical research.

About the Global Alzheimer’s Platform Foundation® (GAP) 

The Global Alzheimer’s Platform Foundation® (GAP) is a person-centric nonprofit dedicated to accelerating the delivery of innovative therapies for neurological disorders by reducing the duration and cost of clinical trials. Research centers across the US, Canada, and Europe are part of the growing GAP Network (GAP-Net). GAP supports GAP-Net research centers by assisting with study start-up and recruitment activities, promoting diversity in research studies, and offering international clinical trial infrastructure, resources, and programs that champion brain health and the citizen scientists who make research possible.

About El Faro Health and Therapeutics

El Faro Health and Therapeutics is a clinical research site primarily engaged in Alzheimer’s disease research and treatment. It is the first private clinical research site in Starr County, TX, the county with the highest Alzheimer’s prevalence in the nation. El Faro is affiliated with the Global Alzheimer’s Platform Foundation Network (GAP-NET) with access to international clinical trial infrastructure and innovations in the research field.

Dr. Antonio Falcon is an esteemed healthcare provider in his native Rio Grande City and across the U.S. – with more than 44 years of experience as a family physician treating a myriad of diseases, including dementia and Alzheimer’s. He was a member of the United States-Mexico Border Health Commission, a Commissioner for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, and a Board Member for the Texas Medical Foundation Institute for Health Quality. Dr. Falcon was named Family Physician of the Year by the Texas Academy of Family Physicians in 2015. He also was recently appointed as a trustee to the Baylor College of Medicine, his alma mater. Dr. Antonio Falcon will lead El Faro with his son Dr. James Falcon, a physician in Texas who served as an emergency medical physician in the United States Army – both domestically and while deployed to combat zones.


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