MJFF Honors Three With Humanitarian and Research Awards

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by Diana Campelo Delgado |

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The Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) has honored three people with humanitarian and research awards for their work and commitment to movement disorders.

Lily Safra, chairwoman of The Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation, was awarded the Edmond J. Safra Humanitarian Award. Researcher Caroline Tanner, MD, PhD, received the Robert A. Pritzker Prize and William Dauer, MD, was awarded with the Bachmann-Strauss Prize.

The announcement was made on Nov. 17 at an online roundtable event.

The Edmond J. Safra Humanitarian Award was created by the MJFF in 2020 to honor Lily Safra and recognizes her dedication to advancing better treatments and a cure for Parkinson’s disease and to improve quality of life for those living with the disease.

Safra, a humanitarian devoted to education, science and medicine, is a founding member of MJFF’s board of directors and has supported several of the Foundation’s scientific programs, enabling research and clinical studies in Parkinson’s disease. These include a gift to initiate the Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI), an observational study that will allow researchers to better understand how Parkinson’s disease manifests and progresses.

“Lily understands our mission through informed generosity and supports us with spirit and affection,” Michael J. Fox, founder of the MJFF, said at the roundtable. “She wants us to find a cure, and she’s going to do everything she can to help us.”

Caroline Tanner, professor of neurology at the Weill Institute for NeurosciencesUniversity of California San Francisco, received the Robert A. Pritzker Prize for Leadership in Parkinson’s Research, in the form of a $100,000 research grant, recognizing her contributions to Parkinson’s research and mentoring young scientists.

Tanner’s research includes epidemiological investigations with a focus on the contribution of  environmental factors in Parkinson’s, such as how exposure to common pesticides such as paraquat or rotenone, can increase the risk of developing the disease. Tanner also is a principal investigator in MJFF’s online clinical study Fox Insight.

“I am honored to be the recipient of the 2020 Robert A. Pritzker Prize,” Caroline Tanner, MD, PhD, said in a press release. “It is my hope that my work is contributing insight into the many complexities of Parkinson’s disease, moving in the right direction toward new treatments and, ultimately, prevention of PD, and advancing opportunities for the very dedicated next generation of Parkinson’s disease researchers,” she said.

“Dr. Tanner has been a champion of Parkinson’s patients for the duration of her esteemed career,” said MJFF CEO Todd Sherer, PhD. “Her research spans biology, biomarkers and therapies, and her notable scientific discoveries — such as around increased Parkinson’s risk from exposure to commonly used pesticides — have contributed to new areas of research and prevention strategies. Many of today’s brightest scientists honed their craft with her guidance.”

William Dauer, director of the Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute and professor at the UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, was awarded the Bachmann-Strauss Prize for Excellence in Dystonia Research, an annual prize recognizing profound contributions to dystonia research. The prize is accompanied by an unrestricted research grant of $100,000 to support further research.

Dauer’s group has developed a pre-clinical model of dystonia — a common motor symptom of Pakrinson’s characterized by abnormal movements — that has allowed researchers to study the underlying biology of dystonia and test the impact of different therapies.

“Dr. Dauer has spearheaded groundbreaking research that explores the underlying causes, development and treatment of dystonia,” Bonnie Strauss said in a press release. Strauss is founder of The Bachmann-Strauss Dystonia & Parkinson Foundation and was diagnosed with dystonia. “We created the research prize for this purpose — to speed discoveries and testing of new therapies to help people living with this condition,” she said.