Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Calls for Parkinson’s Research Proposals

Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Calls for Parkinson’s Research Proposals

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is accepting funding applications from researchers who want to do basic science projects on neurodegeneration.

The goal is to increase scientists’ understanding of diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s and attract new talent and ideas.

Grant recipients will become part of the CZI Neurodegeneration Challenge Network, an interdisciplinary collaboration aimed at increasing understanding of the biology that underlies neurodegenerative disorders.

Scientists can apply for two types of funding. One is an CZI Ben Barres Early Career Acceleration Award for researchers who are in the early stages of their work. The other is a CZI Collaborative Science Award. It involves an interdisciplinary collaboration that includes a physician.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, started the initiative in 2016. The overarching goal is to cure all diseases before the end of the century.

The program’s focus has been basic research, which can be difficult to obtain funds for because of the long road between laboratory experiments and approval of therapies that arise from them.

Another reason for the basic research focus is that federal spending for such projects has leveled out, according to data from 2015. Federal sources provide less than half of all funding for basic research, compared with 70 percent in the early 1970s.

Scientists have done a lot of research on neurodegenerative diseases in the past several decades. But they need to know a lot more about their underlying biology before they can develop cures.

In Parkinson’s disease, for example, they still do not know why cells that produce dopamine die in a brain region called substantia nigra — and how they die.

The development of treatments for neurodegenerative disorders has led to many complications and a lot of disappointment. In January, Pfizer said it would terminate its research into Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s after years of unsuccessful results. And in February Merck announced the discontinuation of a Phase 3 clinical trial on an Alzheimer’s treatment, presumably due to lack of effectiveness.

The Neurodegeneration Challenge Network is bringing together outstanding scientists from different disciplines in hopes of shedding light on the basic mechanisms underlying neurodegeneration.

In calling for applications, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative notes that treatment development efforts “have focused on a relatively narrow set of ideas.” It said it hopes for approaches that reflect a “greater appreciation that these diseases may share common genes, pathways and cellular mechanisms.”

In addition to projects investigating disease mechanisms, it would consider funding the development of animal models that can better mimic neurodegenerative diseases in humans, and projects dealing with non-nerve cells sources of neurodegenerative diseases, such as the immune system.



  1. Katharine Daly says:

    Basic research! What wonderful and uplifting news. Bravo, CZI. Your commitment to a Parkinson’s cure measured purely by scientific and humanitarian yardsticks is something for all to celebrate. This feels especially true following Pfizer’s and Merck’s business decision to abandon this crucial challenge.

    So, live long and continue to prosper, Mr.Z.

  2. Burton Gavzer says:

    My wife has Parkinson’s. I contacted Pfizer regarding their decision to
    discontinue research and development into Parkinson’s and Alzheimers.
    Their response was that a fund had been created to provide funding to
    those pharmaceutical companies who were more qualified to achieve
    results than they were. I looked into this fund and found that 6 large
    pharmaceutical companies were to contribute a total of 12 million dollars over a 10 year period. That’s 2 million dollars each over 10 years. That
    is disgraceful and I told them so. Never got further reply from Pfizer.

    • Andreas Fleurlinger says:

      Unfortunately Big Pharma decided to sit back and let publicly funded and supported entities (NIH and Universities) do most of the work and heavy intellectual lifting.
      They sure support some of these efforts, as you noted, but are holding their money tight until something is developed to a stage where it can be commercialized.
      They will then acquire the technology/intellectual property and sell it. Less financial risk but open to ethical discussions.

  3. Luann Voss says:

    Thank you CZI. My dad died from Parkinson’s complications and my mother has it. There are forms of exercise that greatly help symptoms and I wonder if anyone understands why.

  4. Jan Vandromme says:

    So, I hope they will do also some research on the TH17 interleukine
    and the shift in the TH1-TH2 axis !!!

    And further investigate the benefit of high doses Vit. D, with at the
    same time controlling PTH !! (you can ask Dr. Holick and Dr. Coimbra)
    (and eventually also Dr. Marty Hinz……)

    Greetings from a “fighting” YOPD-diagnosted Osteopath !!

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