WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Obama administration will push for a $156 million increase in funding for Alzheimer's research over the next two years, the Department of Health and Human Services announced Tuesday.
The National Institutes of Health will commit another $50 million in funding this year, and the White House will propose an additional $80 million as part of President Barack Obama's budget proposal for the next fiscal year. The new research funding will help support both basic and clinical research designed in part to improve therapy and identify genes associated with a heightened risk of the disease.
Another $26 million would be allocated starting next year for caregiver support,education, and public awareness, among other things.
Currently, the NIH spends $450 million annually on research into Alzheimer's, which afflicts as many as 5.1 million Americans. The total number of Americans with Alzheimer's could more than double by 2050, according to the federal government.
Alzheimer's is "a disease that takes a devastating toll on millions of Americans," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said. "Reducing the burden of Alzheimer's disease on patients and their families is an urgent national priority."
Tuesday's announcement was part of the administration's "We Can't Wait" initiative, a series of measures designed to highlight executive branch action in contrast to legislative gridlock.
While researchers welcomed the proposed increase, they also noted that funding for Alzheimer's still lags significantly compared to funding for other major ailments. Last year, the NIH spent $3 billion on research into AIDS, $4.3 billion on heart disease, and $5.8 billion for cancer, according to the Alzheimer's Association.
Over the next four decades, Alzheimer's care is projected to cost the United States approximately $20 trillion, according to the association.
Alzheimer's, an irreversible brain disorder that gradually erodes memory and cognitive function, is currently the sixth-leading cause of death in America, the association notes.
CNN's Elizabeth Landau contributed to this report