The American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA) recently hosted two groups of experts who assessed scientific projects vying for funding, and addressed diversity issues in Parkinson’s disease research and care.
The organization met with its scientific advisory board (SAB) to decide which grant projects it will fund for the 2019-2020 academic year. Grants are based on overall significance and field impact, appropriateness of the project’s chief investigator and scientific environment, and feasibility of the project’s proposed budget and end date. Funding decisions will be announced in August.
The APDA also hosted its first-ever Diversity in Parkinson’s Research Conference, which focused on needs surrounding the disease in diverse and under-served communities. Attendees included researchers investigating Parkinson’s in ethnic and minority populations, and clinicians who treat such patients.
Panel discussions included an overview of APDA diversity initiatives, research about biomarkers in diverse populations, disparities in Parkinson’s clinical trial enrollment, and what the field of hypertension can teach Parkinson’s investigators about access to diverse communities.
Currently, most Parkinson’s research focuses on relatively older white men, the APDA said. The organization wants to expand investigations to include more patients of varying ages, genders, races and ethnicities. It also wants more access among these groups for care, programs and services.
”APDA’s mission is to help everyone impacted by Parkinson’s disease live life to the fullest, and we mean everyone,” Leslie A. Chambers, APDA president and CEO, said in a press release.
The organization plans to establish an annual grant to support research focused on closing diversity gaps. For now, it offers an annual $50,000 post-doctoral fellowship, and multiple $75,000 research grants. The three-year $300,000 George C. Cotzias Fellowship supports early-career physician-scientists. In addition, the APDA awards its Centers for Advanced Research $100,000 each year to support PD investigations. (Visit this site for more information on APDA-funded research.)
”It’s so exciting to see the fascinating ideas outlined in the grant submissions,” said Rebecca Gilbert, MD, PhD, APDA vice president and chief scientific officer, of the current crop of proposals. “Proposed research projects included everything from ways of detecting a diagnosis of PD in the blood, to exploring ways that telemedicine can improve the lives of patients with PD. The SAB certainly had their work cut out for them and made some tough choices,” she said.
In addition to deciding who gets new grants, the SAB receives updates during annual meetings about previously funded research. During the May 16 meeting, for example, members were apprised of the latest research at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where scientists are focused on advances in the role of brain inflammation in Parkinson’s development and progression. The SAB also heard from Washington University School of Medicine researchers studying imaging biomarkers for Parkinson’s.
David Standaert, a leading Parkinson’s researcher at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, also is the SAB’s chairman. He called the Diversity in Research Conference a “fantastic” first step toward finding answers.
”Together, I think we can do great things to make both our research and services more inclusive and accessible,” he said.