American Parkinson Disease Association Awards First Diversity Research Grant

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by David Melamed, PhD |

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The American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA) has awarded $1.4 million toward research into Parkinson’s disease for 2020–2021, including the first-ever Diversity in Parkinson’s Disease Research Grant.

Following the first APDA Diversity in Parkinson’s Disease Research Conference held in May 2019, at which experts discussed the impact of Parkinson’s in underserved communities, the organization established the new diversity grant to support those patients in need.

The first recipient of the APDA Diversity in Parkinson’s Disease Research Grant is Chantale Branson, MD, a researcher at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia, who is studying the racial demographics of Parkinson’s among African Americans.

“The APDA Diversity in Parkinson’s Disease Research Conference explored the unique and urgent needs surrounding PD [Parkinson’s disease] in diverse and under-represented communities,” David Standaert, MD, PhD, chairman of the APDA Scientific Advisory Board, said in a press release. “We are proud to award the first grant of this kind to encourage and support a researcher who is committed to diversity-focused research so we can learn more about how the disease affects different populations and ultimately better serve people with PD from all communities,” he said.

The APDA awards funding annually to support the Parkinson’s community, and has raised more than $207 million since its inception in 1961 to support patient services, educational programs, public awareness, and research.

Researchers seeking funding must undertake a competitive application process in order to be awarded a research grant. The applications are reviewed by the APDA Scientific Advisory Board, comprised of scientists with a broad expertise into all aspects of Parkinson’s disease.

The advisory board meets annually, not only to award research grants, but also to set the overall direction of the APDA’s scientific research support.

In addition to the diversity grant, this year’s APDA’s funding includes three post-doctoral fellowships, five research grants, and eight APDA Centers for Advanced Research.

“APDA is steadfast in our research focus — identifying and supporting researchers early in their careers to encourage them to either commence or continue dedicating themselves to PD research, as well as to help established investigators pursue new and novel ideas.” said Rebecca Gilbert, MD, PhD, vice president and chief scientific officer of APDA. “We are excited for these researchers to commit themselves to their work and have hope for meaningful outcomes that can make a difference for people living with PD.”

The three post-doctoral fellowships are designed to support early career post-doctoral scientists performing promising research into the pathophysiology (how a disease affects the body), etiology (the cause of a disease), and treatment of Parkinson’s.

“A cornerstone of APDA’s research funding strategy is to provide support to early career researchers with meritorious new ideas,” said Gilbert. “With funding from APDA, these researchers can further develop their theories and obtain significant pilot data and initial proof of concept that enables them to apply for and receive larger grants from the National Institutes of Health and other funding institutions. Without this initial funding from APDA, some research projects might never get off the ground,” she said.

The APDA also awarded five research grants to lead investigators at major academic institutions across the United States performing what the APDA considers to be innovative Parkinson’s research.

The APDA renewed funding for its eight Centers for Advanced Research across the U.S., which support large-scale Parkinson’s research with programs for trainees, fellowships, early-stage discoveries, and later-stage clinical studies.

Additional information is available about the awardees, as well as the 2021–2022 research grant application process.