As part of a new partnership with Parkinson’s UK, the Parkinson’s Foundation has granted the nonprofit $250,000 toward a prospective new treatment linked to mitochondrial function that is being developed in the Parkinson’s Virtual Biotech program.
The grant will help advance a project aimed at uncovering new methods of potentially impeding brain cell death through stabilization of the source of energy necessary for cell survival — the mitochondria. It’s the first international funding for the Parkinson’s UK-led program and marks the beginning of a collaborative effort to move forward promising Parkinson’s (PD) treatment research.
“We are pleased to partner with Parkinson’s UK to further innovative research that will help the international PD community,” John Lehr, president and CEO of the Parkinson’s Foundation, said in a press release. “This collaboration will help us better serve people living with Parkinson’s today while furthering the promise of a cure tomorrow.”
Parkinson’s UK and its supporters and collaborators each year invest more than $5 million in Parkinson’s Virtual Biotech — the organization’s drug discovery and development arm — focusing on projects with the potential to transform patients’ lives. Fueled by project-specific partnerships with some of the world’s top research organizations, the program’s goal is to invest $29 million by the end of 2021.
“We are delighted to receive this investment from the Parkinson’s Foundation to support a growing portfolio of projects in our Virtual Biotech,” said Steve Ford, chief executive of Parkinson’s UK. “While we have made huge strides in our research efforts, we have long recognized that we can’t do it alone. The Parkinson’s Foundation shares this philosophy that we’re better together, and their investment marks a new chapter that will help ensure the Parkinson’s community receives the new treatments it needs.”
With its grant, the Parkinson’s Foundation is focusing on a £98,000 (about $126,000) year-long project with the University of Sheffield that began in August called “Novel Mitochondrial Rescue Compounds.”
Through compound modification, scientists will seek to discover and develop a potential therapy that could protect the dopamine-producing brain cells affected by Parkinson’s. The hope is that the most promising study compound ultimately will result in prospective brain cell-protecting treatments that could slow PD progression and enhance patients’ lives.
Parkinson’s is caused by the death or malfunction of dopaminergic neurons, which regulate muscle movement and coordination. To do their job, these nerve cells require large amounts of mitochondra-provided energy. Studies have widely suggested that mitochondrial dysfunction plays a central role in the development of PD.
To date, the Parkinson’s Virtual Biotech program has invested in seven drug discovery and development projects.
In addition to this collaboration, the two PD organizations also are working together on Parkinson’s Revolution, an indoor cycling fundraiser slated for Feb. 8 across the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada. The event is designed to highlight the benefits of exercise in PD while also raising funds for research and programs.
Since 1957, the Parkinson’s Foundation has invested more than $353 million in PD research and clinical care. Parkinson’s UK is Europe’s largest charitable funder of Parkinson’s research.