Michael J. Fox Foundation Grants $7.7M to Parkinson's Research Projects through Biannual Funding Round

NEW YORK, June 27, 2018 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research (MJFF) announces awards totaling $7.7M to 39 research projects through its biannual open funding round. Selected studies propose innovative approaches -- such as retinal scanning, natural killer cells, and profiling of pesticide exposure -- to advance understanding, measurement and treatment of Parkinson's disease, the second most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer's.

"Our latest funding round builds on The Michael J. Fox Foundation's longstanding tradition of supporting novel research poised for scientific breakthroughs that move the field toward patients' greatest unmet need -- therapies to prevent, slow or stop Parkinson's progression -- and better lives for those living with the disease today," said MJFF CEO Todd Sherer, PhD.

In late summer 2017, the Foundation began accepting applications to four funding programs that prioritized research aims most critical for progress toward patient-relevant learnings and therapies. The Target Advancement and Therapeutic Pipeline Programs (the Edmond J. Safra Core Programs for PD Research) support work to uncover biological processes underpinning Parkinson's and evaluate new treatments, respectively. The Improved Biomarkers and Clinical Outcome Measures Program and a Mitochondrial Biomarkers Program fund studies toward tests to predict disease onset and progression, especially in mitochondrial pathways, increasingly linked to Parkinson's disease.

MJFF staff and more than 80 external advisors reviewed over 200 funding proposals. Selected projects -- 19 from U.S. research teams and 20 from scientists across 11 other countries -- cover a variety of topics. A number of the studies are growing the Foundation's strategic roadmaps around priority targets such as alpha-synuclein, LRRK2 and GBA to better understand their role in disease and develop therapies to prevent or offset their dysfunction. In addition, this crop of research projects includes many unique approaches to better understand and treat Parkinson's disease (PD).

    --  Eyeing up Parkinson's -- Non-invasive measures of PD would allow for
        more widespread screening, earlier diagnosis and better disease
        tracking. Californian biotech Amydis Inc. is developing a technique to
        measure the Parkinson's protein alpha-synuclein in retinal tissue with
        an ophthalmic test.

    --  Testing an asthma drug and cancer approach to stop Parkinson's -- Recent
        findings showed people who took an asthma drug had lower risk of
        Parkinson's disease. Following up on those results, scientists from
        Michigan State University are studying effects of an asthma drug,
        clenbuterol, in a Parkinson's pre-clinical model.Two other projects are
        pursuing therapeutic routes that are gaining traction in cancer
        research. A study from Fundacion Ciencia and Vida in Chile is exploring
        if certain types of immune cells (CAR T cells) can target the
        pathological Parkinson's protein alpha-synuclein and protect brain
        cells. University of Georgia scientists are investigating natural killer
        cells, a type of white blood cell, for the same purpose.

    --  Predicting dementia and app-based speech therapy - While scientists
        search for a cure, many symptoms remain difficult to understand and to
        treat. Researchers at the Hertie Institute for Clinical Brain Research
        in Germany are looking at a functional measure (activities of daily
        living) to investigate its utility as a predictor of PD dementia
        development. Radboud University scientists in the Netherlands will
        assess an at-home speech therapy program using a mobile app and video
        conferencing with a therapist. Given Parkinson's affects mobility and
        many people live far from specialist care, telehealth approaches are of
        great interest to this community.
    --  Profiling biological change with pesticide exposure -- Pesticide
        exposure is linked to increased Parkinson's risk, but many questions
        remain on the biological mechanisms that lead to disease. University of
        California, San Francisco scientists are assessing mitochondrial DNA
        damage with pesticide exposure to better understand and measure the
        impact of this environmental factor.

The largest non-profit funder of Parkinson's research, MJFF invested nearly $100 million in research in 2017. Foundation initiatives and staff-driven grants complement funding directed through formal funding programs. MJFF staff and advisors are currently evaluating proposals for fall 2018 funding, and the Foundation will begin taking applications for the spring 2019 funding round later this summer. Visit www.michaeljfox.org/funding for more information on our grant programs.

Review a full list of MJFF-funded projects at www.michaeljfox.org/fundedprojects.

About The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research

As the world's largest nonprofit funder of Parkinson's research, The Michael J. Fox Foundation is dedicated to accelerating a cure for Parkinson's disease and improved therapies for those living with the condition today. The Foundation pursues its goals through an aggressively funded, highly targeted research program coupled with active global engagement of scientists, Parkinson's patients, business leaders, clinical trial participants, donors and volunteers. In addition to funding more than $800 million in research to date, the Foundation has fundamentally altered the trajectory of progress toward a cure. Operating at the hub of worldwide Parkinson's research, the Foundation forges groundbreaking collaborations with industry leaders, academic scientists and government research funders; increases the flow of participants into Parkinson's disease clinical trials with its online tool, Fox Trial Finder; promotes Parkinson's awareness through high-profile advocacy, events and outreach; and coordinates the grassroots involvement of thousands of Team Fox members around the world.

For more information, visit www.michaeljfox.org.

View original content with multimedia:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/michael-j-fox-foundation-grants-7-7m-to-parkinsons-research-projects-through-biannual-funding-round-300673245.html

SOURCE The Michael J. Fox Foundation