Translational Research
All Roads Lead Here
Dr. Joseph C. Masdeu is leading research on brain inflammation in people with dementia.
ANNIE AND BOB GRAHAM continue THEIR commitment to Nantz national alzheimer center
A few weeks after making their first gift to the Nantz National Alzheimer Center at Houston Methodist, Annie and Bob Graham’s phone rang. When she heard who was on the other line to say thank you, Annie was shocked. “I asked, ‘Is this the real Jim Nantz?’ Anybody who watches sports knows who he is.”
Jim Nantz and his wife, Courtney, helped establish the Nantz National Alzheimer Center in 2011 as a tribute to Jim’s late father, who battled Alzheimer’s disease and was cared for at Houston Methodist. “The fact that Jim is willing to devote so much time and effort to the center is impressive,” says Bob.
Inspired by the level of care, research and dedication evident at the center, the Grahams made a gift to establish an endowed chair in 2013 that Dr. Joseph C. Masdeu, the director of the center, has held since 2014.
“Once you meet Dr. Masdeu, you want to be around him to learn as much as possible.”
Annie Graham
The Grahams have continued to support Dr. Masdeu’s work. In 2022, they made a philanthropic commitment to establish the Annie and Bob Graham Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention and Treatment Endowment and the Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention and Treatment Fund.
“With the help of the Grahams, who are so generous and committed, we are one of the leading centers in the world studying brain inflammation in people with dementia,” says Dr. Masdeu, the Graham Family Distinguished Chair for Neurological Sciences. Dr. Masdeu notes that the center’s technological capabilities enable doctors to safely perform two scans in a single day, allowing them to characterize brain inflammation more accurately. “Most institutions can only determine how much brain inflammation is present in about 70% of patients,” Dr. Masdeu says. “Using a tracer, we found that we can successfully measure brain inflammation in everyone.”
As part of their recent commitment, the Grahams directed funds toward another aspect of Dr. Masdeu’s work, research in schizophrenia. “Beyond Alzheimer’s, the work Dr. Masdeu is doing on schizophrenia and other mental health issues is really exciting,” says Bob.

Dr. Masdeu is testing a hypothesis that a group of patients with symptoms of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder have an autoimmune disease. “We suspect that a significant number of people believed to have schizophrenia or bipolar disease actually have an immune system disorder,” he explains. “If true, those people have diseases that are completely reversible — they just need proper treatment.”
To date, Dr. Masdeu has treated a small number of patients with antibodies to combat immune disorders. “I don’t know who received the placebo, but I’ve never seen anything like these early results in my career,” says Dr. Masdeu.
With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now ranking mental illness among the most common health conditions in the country, the Grahams recognize the synergy of the moment. “This work is going to become more and more important given the growing mental health crisis,” says Bob. “Indeed, it is,” adds Annie.