The Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) announced it has set aside a $2 million prize for the development of a PET tracer capable of visualizing the protein alpha-synuclein, the main therapeutic target and biomarker candidate in Parkinson’s disease (PD) research.
Announced at the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI) annual meeting, the Alpha–Synuclein Imaging Prize aims to motivate efforts into developing this tool, which would allow for earlier and more precise diagnoses, tracking of disease progression, and more effective and efficient intervention testing.
“The ability to image alpha-synuclein in the brain would be a game-changer for Parkinson’s translational research and would rapidly accelerate testing of therapies to slow or stop disease progression,” Jamie Eberling, PhD, director of Research Programs at MJFF, said in a press release.
The prize is open to all academic and industry researchers, MJFF funded or not. Applicants must provide preclinical and clinical data showing the selectivity and viability of an alpha-synuclein radiotracer, and agree to make their radiotracer available for use by the MJFF through a non-exclusive license or other mechanism. The award will be given to the first team showing compelling evidence, and has no deadline for applications.
Alpha-synuclein aggregation, or Lewy bodies, is a pathological hallmark of PD. Scientists believe such accumulation is a cause of the cell degeneration and death responsible for Parkinson’s symptoms and disease progression.
In vivo imaging of alpha-synuclein pathology could be useful as a PD biomarker and as a pharmacodynamic tool for drug development.
“As a company with a clinical program targeting alpha-synuclein, we applaud The Michael J. Fox Foundation for its leadership in the pursuit of meaningful biomarkers for Parkinson’s disease,” said Tara Nickerson, PhD, chief business officer for Prothena Corp., which is developing protein immunotherapies for diseases such as Parkinson’s. MJFF is collaborating with Prothena to support complementary work to measure alpha-nuclein in peripheral tissues and fluids.
MJFF first began advancing work on an alpha-synuclein PET tracer in 2011, when it created the public/private Alpha-synuclein Imaging Consortium, and it is separately funding a number of independent studies on such a radiotracer. In total, the foundation has awarded more than $600 million to support Parkinson’s research.