Michael J. Fox Foundation Awards $3 Million to Advance Parkinson’s Disease Research

April 23, 2010

NEW YORK, April 23 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research today announced more than $3 million in previously unannounced awards ending the first quarter of 2010. The funded projects complement the Foundation’s annually occurring Pipeline Programs and Critical Challenges in Parkinson’s Disease initiatives, which aim to accelerate PD therapeutic development.

Many of the 17 different projects announced today provide additional funding to advance promising avenues of PD therapeutic development. John Sinclair, Ph.D., of the University of Cambridge is continuing his work to investigate the possible use of viral RNA to protect the neurons that die in Parkinson’s disease. Dr. Sinclair first received an award in 2008, under the Foundation’s Rapid Response Innovation Awards, to test his theory that a novel piece of viral RNA that keeps cells alive during infection can be used to develop a neuroprotective therapy for PD.

Gregory A. Petsko, DPhil of Brandeis University is investigating shapes that the protein alpha-synuclein may take within cells that can lead to its aggregation into Lewy bodies, a pathological hallmark of Parkinson’s disease. With previous MJFF support Dr. Petsko demonstrated that the inhibition of enzymes that cleave alpha-synuclein in yeast and mammalian cell models prevents cell death from the protein. The project announced today builds further on this research by studying the particular structure that makes alpha-synuclein more or less sensitive to these enzymes in order to determine whether this process can be targeted therapeutically.

Another project, led by Jochen Weishaupt, MD, of the University Hospital Goettingen in Germany is validating findings from earlier studies, funded under MJFF’s Target Validation awards, which demonstrated neuroprotective effects of a growth factor called G-CSF (granulocyte-colony stimulating factor) in pre-clinical models of PD. With additional funding from the Foundation, Dr. Weishaupt is testing an enhanced form of G-CSF called pegfilgrastim in other relevant pre-clinical models, a critical step in advancing G-CSF toward clinical trials.

The following is a complete list of funded projects. Grant abstracts and researcher bios are available on the Foundation’s Web site, www.michaeljfox.org.

    Prospective Validation of Risk Markers for the Development of
     Parkinson's Syndromes
    Daniela Berg, MD, University of Tuebingen

    Optimization of Optical Coherence Tomography as a Biomarker for
     Parkinson's Disease
    Ivan Bodis-Wollner, SUNY Downstate Medical Center

    A Generic Repository for Experimental Data
    Gully Burns, DPhil, University of Southern California

    Neoangiogenesis and Blood-Brain Barrier in L-DOPA-Induced Dyskinesia
    Angela Cenci-Nilsson, MD, Ph.D., Lund University

    Comparison and Actions of MANF and GDNF in Rodent Models of
     Parkinson's Disease
    John W. Commissiong, Ph.D., Amarantus Therapeutics, Inc.

    Making PSG Databases Available to Researchers
    Karl Kieburtz, MD, MPH, University of Rochester Medical Center

    Viral Overexpression of Alpha-Synuclein in Nonhuman Primates
    Jeffrey H. Kodower, Ph.D., Rush University Medical Center

    A Rodent Model of Pathological Gambling Associated with Medicated
     Parkinsonian Patients
    T. Celeste Napier, Ph.D., Rush University Medical Center

    Specific Inhibition of Nucleation of Alpha-Synuclein Aggregation as a
     Therapeutic Strategy
    Gregory A. Petsko, DPhil, Brandeis University

    Development of Potent Conformation-Specific Compounds Directed to
     Monomeric Alpha-Synuclein
    Joshua Salafsky, Ph.D., Biodesy LLC

    Novel Antibodies for the Delivery of Parkinson's Therapeutics
    Eric V. Shusta, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin, Madison

    Evaluation of a Viral Non-coding RNA as a Neuroprotective and
     Neurorestorative Therapy in Chronic Models of Parkinson's Disease
    John Sinclair, Ph.D., University of Cambridge

    Validation of VPS41, a Protein Involved in Lysosomal Trafficking, as a
     Target for Parkinson Disease Therapy
    David G. Standaerdt, MD, Ph.D., University of Alabama at Birmingham

    N-Acetylcysteine CSF Levels and Biomarkers in a Mouse Model of PD
    Raymond Swanson, MD, University of California, San Francisco

    Promoting Widespread Data Sharing Among Scientists
    Michael W. Weiner, MD, Northern California Institute for Research and

    Preclinical Examination of Pharmacodynamics and Neuroprotective
     Effects of Pegylated G-CSF in MPTP-Treated Non-Human Primates
    Jochen Weishaupt, MD, University Hospital Goettingen

    Generation of a Dorsal Motor Nucleus Specific Mouse Model of Alpha-
     Synuclein Overexpression to Study the Etiology of Autonomic
     Dysfunction in PD
    Xiangdong Yang, MD, Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles

The Michael J. Fox Foundation is dedicated to ensuring the development of better treatments, and ultimately a cure, for Parkinson’s disease through an aggressively funded research agenda. MJFF has funded almost $179 million in research to date.

SOURCE Michael J. Fox Foundation

Source: newswire

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