Get news alerts

Banner Health hires renowned leader for new biomarker research program

Nicholas Ashton’s program aims to discover, galvanize use of new blood tests in fight against Alzheimer’s and related diseases

PHOENIX (May 15, 2024) – Emerging blood tests have begun to revolutionize the fight against Alzheimer’s disease, the most common cause of memory and thinking problems in older adults. Banner Health has hired Nicholas Ashton, Ph.D. – a pioneer in the discovery, evaluation, and use of cerebrospinal fluid and blood tests for Alzheimer’s and related diseases – as senior director of the new Banner Research Blood-Based Biomarker Program. He started this week. 

In his new role, Dr. Ashton will develop and oversee a research laboratory dedicated to discovering new spinal fluid and blood tests, including pinprick blood tests for easier Alzheimer’s testing and blood tests for other age-related cognitive and movement disorders. He will also develop and oversee a laboratory dedicated to the high-quality assessment of different spinal fluid and blood tests from national and international research studies and trials, characterizing and comparing their performance, and using them to help transform the understanding, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of these diseases.    

“Our colleagues, collaborators, and I could not be more excited about the chance to work with Dr. Ashton,” said Eric Reiman, MD, CEO of Banner Research and executive director of Banner Alzheimer’s Institute. “Together, we have a chance to make a major difference in the diagnosis and study of Alzheimer’s and related diseases, transform the standard of care for patients and families, and find and support the widespread accessibility of effective Alzheimer’s prevention therapies in the next few years.”

The Banner Research Biomarker Program will be located at Banner Sun Health Research Institute and involve researchers and clinicians from there and Banner Alzheimer’s Institute. 

The program will work with Banner Sun Health’s well-known brain donation program to discover and confirm the accuracy of new blood tests for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and related diseases using biological samples and data obtained before and after the end of life in research participants who donate their brains. It will also work with Banner Alzheimer’s Institute’s internationally recognized brain imaging, treatment and prevention programs, their organizational partners in the Arizona Alzheimer’s Consortium, and academic and industry researchers around the world to advance the scientific and clinical fight against Alzheimer’s and related diseases.

“I’ve been privileged to learn from and work with leaders in the field,” said Dr. Ashton. “I’m thrilled to develop a new biomarker program, capitalize on Banner’s remarkable resources and leadership roles, build on my existing relationships, and fulfill our shared scientific and clinical goals together.”

Dr. Ashton received his PhD at King’s College London, further developed his biomarker research skills at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, and has been a faculty member there since 2019. He is the author of more than 200 fluid biomarker research articles, was awarded the Queen of Sweden Prize to a Young Alzheimer Researcher for his contributions to dementia research and, at the age of 36, he is among the world’s most highly cited researchers.

“We are delighted to welcome Dr. Ashton to Banner and develop, test, and use blood tests to revolutionize the study, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of Alzheimer’s and related diseases, establishing a destination center for the field,” said Marjorie Bessel, MD, chief clinical officer for Banner Health. “We look forward to working with colleagues inside Arizona and around the world to have the greatest impact.”

About Banner Sun Health Research Institute
Since 1986, Banner Sun Health Research Institute, part of nonprofit Banner Health, has been a leader nationally and internationally in the effort to find answers to disorders of aging including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. The institute’s Cleo Roberts Center for Clinical Research takes laboratory discoveries to clinical trials that foster hope for new treatments. Banner Health is Arizona’s leading health care provider and largest private employer. For more information, visit

About Banner Alzheimer’s Institute 
Since its inception in 2006, Banner Alzheimer’s Institute has sought to find effective Alzheimer’s prevention therapies without losing another generation, establish a new model of dementia care for patients and family caregivers, and forge new models of collaboration in biomedical research. It has made groundbreaking contributions to the unusually early detection, tracking, diagnosis and study of Alzheimer’s, and aims to find an effective prevention therapy by 2025. It includes the pioneering Alzheimer’s Prevention Initiative, an extensive profile of research studies and clinical trials, comprehensive clinical, family and community service programs, a leading brain imaging research program, and strategic partnerships with public and private research organizations around the world. Learn more at


Alzheimer Banner Alzheimers Institute Banner Health Leadership Research

For further information contact us at: [email protected]