Michael J. Fox receives Catalyst Award for work with MJFF

The Elevate Prize Foundation recognizes individuals who influence social action

Lindsey Shapiro, PhD avatar

by Lindsey Shapiro, PhD |

Share this article:

Share article via email
A hand holds a coin alongside dollar signs and stacks of paper money.

Michael J. Fox has received the 2023 Elevate Prize Catalyst Award in recognition of his work with the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF), an organization dedicated to developing better treatments, and eventually, finding a cure for the Parkinson’s disease.

Granted by the Elevate Prize Foundation, which has a motto of “Make Good Famous,” the Catalyst Award aims to recognize well-known individuals who use their influence to motivate social action in the community. It comes with $250,000 in funding, as well as development resources and partnership opportunities.

Fox was presented with the award at the recent Clinton Global Initiative 2023 Meeting, held Sept. 18-19 in New York, by the Elevate Prize Foundation’s founder, Joseph Deitch, and CEO Carolina García Jayaram.

Recommended Reading
Several hands are shown holding oral medications, while one holds a prescription bottle.

Parkinson’s medications may impair body’s ability to keep cool: Study

“It means the world to have the Foundation’s achievements recognized,” Fox said in a press release from Elevate Prize Foundation. “I accept the Elevate Prize Catalyst Award on behalf of the community pushing our mission forward: the people and families living with [Parkinson’s disease], and the researchers and clinicians on the front lines of the search for a cure.”

“Seeing the progress we’ve made together and the lives we’ve touched through the Foundation has been one of the greatest privileges of my life,” Fox added.

Fox, an Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning actor, was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s in 1991 at age 29, going on to launch MJFF in 2000.

MJFF aims to accelerate a cure for Parkinson’s and to develop better therapies for the millions of people worldwide currently living with the neurodegenerative disease. It has funded nearly $2 billion in Parkinson’s research to date.

‘A catalyst for change’

“Michael J. Fox represents the best of us,” Deitch said. “Faced with an overwhelming personal challenge, he made the monumental decision to be a catalyst for change … By using his platform to bring hope and visibility to those affected by Parkinson’s, he has not only changed the lives of patients in our lifetime, but will impact those of generations to come.”

Among the MJFF’s most significant recent achievements was the development of a biomarker test that can detect Parkinson’s with high diagnostic accuracy — even before the disease’s hallmark motor symptoms are evident.

The test, called the alpha-synuclein seed amplification assay, or alphaSyn-SAA, measures the spread of alpha-synuclein protein clumps in the cerebrospinal fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. Alpha-synuclein is the protein that forms toxic clumps that build up and disrupt nerve cell function in Parkinson’s.

This could help enable earlier diagnoses and a sooner start to treatment for Parkinson’s patients. A version of the test is currently being marketed by Amprion under the brand name SYNTap.

AlphaSyn-SAA was developed as part of MJFF’s Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI), a long-term, international study launched in 2010.

It has enrolled thousands of people with and without Parkinson’s with the goal of collecting data that can help scientists understand how the disease develops in order to identify better treatment targets.

The MJFF will use the funds from the Catalyst Award to further its work toward developing the first biological staging system for Parkinson’s — “the next critical step in making Parkinson’s drug development smarter, better and faster,” the foundation stated in a separate press release.

Defining Parkinson’s based on biomarkers

Such a system would offer a biological framework for defining Parkinson’s and its stages based on biomarkers such as alpha-synuclein clumps or nerve cell loss, rather than relying solely on clinical presentation.

“We are honored to present the Elevate Prize Catalyst Award to Michael J. Fox for his unwavering commitment toward finding a cure for Parkinson’s,” Jayaram said. “Through his storytelling — in both the highs and the lows — he shows us the unrelenting power of optimism, a message we plan to help amplify together in the months ahead.”

Finalists for the next group of Elevate Prize winners also were unveiled; winners will be announced in January. Other recent winners include Malala Yousafzai of the Malala Fund, Amal and George Clooney of the Clooney Foundation for Justice, and musical artist Lizzo.