Michael J. Fox Foundation Summit Outlines Next Steps in Search for Parkinson’s Cure

Patricia Inácio, PhD avatar

by Patricia Inácio, PhD |

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The Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) recently held a summit to discuss the unmet needs and challenges for advancing therapies to slow down or halt Parkinson’s disease.

The event, which took place in New York, was attended by representatives from 20 companies, a number of academic centers and research organizations, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Some of the points discussed during the meeting involved strategies to identify early signs of the disease other than motor impairments, which usually develop at more advanced stages.

Additional points included the design of biological tests to help monitor disease progression and accurately evaluate therapeutic effectiveness, along with the potential of wearable devices to gather data and the related challenges of integrating data from these tools.

Sohini Chowdhury, MJFF deputy CEO, acknowledged the progress of Parkinson’s disease therapies and the key role the foundation plays in promoting research for more powerful and effective treatments.

“Since I began with the Foundation more than 10 years ago, the Parkinson’s therapeutic landscape has changed dramatically. More companies are engaging in Parkinson’s research and development, and we are seeing dramatic advancements in drug development, especially with regard to disease modification,” Chowdhury said in an MJFF blog post.

“The momentum is palpable. We feel it and so do patients, who obviously want to access new therapies that can significantly impact their quality of life. While we should take a moment to celebrate the momentum we have created, we cannot rest. There is still a lot to be done,” she said.

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Recognizing the challenges of developing additional therapies, the summit was intended to provide a healthy discussion with the research community on how to address these challenges. At the same time, MJFF wanted to hear directly from scientists about what they need so the foundation can ensure resources are aligned with the research community’s needs.

Chowdhury reviewed the many successful examples of how MJFF is shaping today’s therapies for Parkinson’s by financing numerous research studies, pioneering investments in large-scale clinical studies, and promoting the joint efforts of competitors and experts.

One such case is the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative study, which was launched in 2010 to create the largest specimen bank of samples and data from Parkinson’s patients. The initiative’s main goal is to identify biomarkers of Parkinson’s disease progression.

Another example is the Fox Insight study, an online clinical study that provides a space for Parkinson’s patients and their families to share information that can be used in the search for better treatments.

This information is already helping researchers design better clinical trials and will now be used to conduct prevention trials, Chowdhury said.