Foundation invests $2.8M in 30 grants for innovative research

Awards seek to encourage 'outside-the-box' research to ultimately find a cure

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by Andrea Lobo |

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An arrow points from a piggybank to a lightbulb, to illustrate funding of innovative research.

The Parkinson’s Foundation is investing $2.8 million in 30 research grants to help advance potential new therapies for Parkinson’s disease.

The focus is to accelerate pioneering research into several aspects of the disease, conducted by early career researchers or those more established. The ultimate goal is to find a cure for the 10 million people worldwide living with Parkinson’s.

“Taking on a disease as complex as Parkinson’s requires the best scientific minds in the world,” James Beck, PhD, the foundation’s chief scientific officer, said in a press release. “We are focused on supporting innovative scientific approaches to research, and individual scientists are the drivers of those advances.”

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2023 Bill and Amy Gurley Impact Awards aim to support fresh research ideas

One of the foundation’s funding programs, the Impact Awards, seeks to support projects that bring fresh insights to Parkinson’s disease biology, explore innovative research approaches, or test novel therapeutic ideas. The awards encourage “outside-the-box” thinking.

This year, the 2023 Bill and Amy Gurley Impact Awards were made possible by a $1-million donation from Bill and Amy Gurley. Each award — totaling up to $150,000 over 12 to 18 months — supports unconventional ideas unlikely to be funded by traditional sources.

Jingxin Wang, PhD, of the University of Kansas School of Pharmacy, was one of the award’s recipients. The funding will allow him to use new RNA-degrading technology to prevent the accumulation of the alpha-synuclein protein in the brain.

Misfolded alpha-synuclein protein aggregates into clumps inside nerve cells, contributing to neurodegeneration in Parkinson’s disease. Therefore, reducing the level of alpha-synuclein in the brain is seen as a promising strategy to treat the disease.

The research team will develop a new class of molecules designed to degrade the genes that encode for alpha-synuclein even before this protein is produced in the cells. By preventing the accumulation of toxic forms of alpha-synuclein, these new gene degraders could potentially stop the progression of the disease.

Taking on a disease as complex as Parkinson’s requires the best scientific minds in the world.

“Receiving this esteemed award from the Parkinson’s Foundation is an incredible honor and a significant milestone in my journey as a researcher,” Wang said. “I am dedicated to advancing our understanding of Parkinson’s, and as a chemist, I am excited to harness the potential of RNA-degrading technology to target this complex neurological disorder.”

All research grant applications are evaluated by a panel of scientific experts, including members of the foundation’s scientific advisory board and research advocates trained by the foundation.

The foundation funds several research awards, including independent investigator awards, fellowships, awards for early career researchers, and awards for institutions.

More information about the 2023 award recipients and the foundation’s research funding opportunities can be found on its website.