New partnership aims to boost genetic research in Parkinson’s

Parkinson's Foundation teams up with Tasso to get patient blood samples

Patricia Inácio, PhD avatar

by Patricia Inácio, PhD |

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The Parkinson’s Foundation has joined forces with Tasso — a U.S. company that offers a sample collection and logistics platform for clinical trials — to accelerate genetic research into the underpinnings of Parkinson’s disease.

The collaboration will harness Tasso’s patient-friendly blood collection technology to acquire small blood samples as part of PD GENEration, a large study offering Parkinson’s patients free genetic testing, along with genetic counseling to help them understand the results. 

That study (NCT04057794), which was launched in 2019, tests for mutations in selected clinically relevant genes for Parkinson’s disease. Data are analyzed in real-time by the Parkinson’s Disease Gene Curation Expert Panel, which encompasses geneticists, neurologists, and genetic advisors who examine the collected information and select potential clinically relevant genes for further research and therapy development.

“The data shared from PD GENEration will drive scientific research forward and improve the understanding of Parkinson’s disease,” James Beck, PhD, senior vice president and chief scientific officer at the Parkinson’s Foundation, said in a press release.

“With Tasso as our partner, we now have a viable platform to enable our ambitious goal of whole-genome sequencing, which offers a promising pathway to better understand the genetics of PD [Parkinson’s disease] and to facilitate research toward new therapies for PD,” Beck said.

The data also will allow researchers to identify which patients are eligible for clinical trials, which could accelerate research and improve care, according to the partners.

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Partners will use PD GENEration study to advance genetic research

Participants in the PD GENEration study now are receiving a kit with Tasso’s blood collection device, for use in the comfort of their homes. The company’s patented technology assures a painless blood sample collection, designed to make it easy for participants or their care partners to complete the process.

The blood collection and its successful completion are supervised by online doctors. Once completed, patients ship their samples in a pre-paid box for analysis in an accredited laboratory.

The samples are then screened for mutations among genes known to play a role in Parkinson’s.

“Tasso and the Parkinson’s Foundation share a mission to accelerate life-changing research,” said Ben Casavant, PhD, CEO and co-founder of Tasso.

“Ensuring study participation is accessible and approachable for PD patients is critical to success. We are proud to partner with the Parkinson’s Foundation to enable a better research experience for people living with PD,” Casavant added.

The PD GENEration study is sponsored by the Parkinson’s Foundation, along with the Global Parkinson’s Genetics Program (GP2). It’s part of the Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s initiative, which is aimed at fostering collaboration and resources to understand the underlying causes of Parkinson’s.