John Q. Trojanowski, 1946-2022


On February 8, John Q. Trojanowski, MD, PhD, a founding member of the AFTD Medical Advisory Council (MAC), died at age 75. Dr. Trojanowski was a groundbreaking figure in the study of neurodegenerative disease, and a tremendous friend and advocate for our community.

A neuropathologist by training, Dr. Trojanowski made critical contributions to advancing understanding of the biological basis of neurodegenerative disorders, particularly FTD. His 1991 discovery regarding the role of the protein tau in the tangles seen in Alzheimer’s disease represented a breakthrough for all tauopathies. In a second landmark discovery made with his wife and lifelong professional partner, Virginia M.-Y. Lee, PhD, Dr. Trojanowski and his team identified the TDP-43 protein as the primary pathology found in both ALS and over half of persons with FTD. Dr. Trojanowski was a respected mentor and guide to many of the next generation of FTD researchers and defined the framework for FTLD neuropathology used today.

Dr. Trojanowski and Dr. Lee co-directed the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research, where they oversaw research into Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, FTD, and other dementias.

In 2003, Dr. Trojanowski, along with more than a dozen other FTD-focused medical clinicians and researchers from around the country, became a founding member of the AFTD Medical Advisory Council, a crucial step in solidifying our organization’s and our community’s knowledge of FTD care and science.

“Along with his beloved wife Virginia and their Penn colleague, Dr. Murray Grossman, John was instrumental in establishing AFTD as the nation’s leading organization focused on FTD,” AFTD founder Helen-Ann Comstock said. “John’s boundless, detailed knowledge of dementia, along with his unceasing compassion for those affected by FTD, have guided AFTD’s mission for nearly 20 years. I am forever thankful for John and his accomplishments.”

Dr. Trojanowski said he was motivated to become involved with AFTD because the organization “addressed huge unmet needs – the most important being patient care, education, and research that puts us on a solid course for discovering disease modifying therapies for FTD.” He continued to serve on the MAC until his death.

“As momentum builds in FTD research, we owe a great debt to Dr. Trojanowski,” said AFTD’s CEO, Susan L-J Dickinson. “Even as many of us mourn his loss, we are grateful for his life’s work – and his outstanding contributions to FTD science.”

As recently as last summer, when he co-authored a paper on the potential use of cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers to help diagnose FTD, Dr. Trojanowski worked to advance FTD science and hasten faster, more accurate diagnosis, and the development of effective treatments.

We offer our deepest condolences to Dr. Lee and the many colleagues and trainees who benefited from Dr. Trojanowski’s dynamic presence in the field of neurodegeneration for many decades.

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