Parkinson’s Foundation Awarding 53 Grants Worth $6.2M to Advance Research and Disease Understanding

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by Patricia Inácio, PhD |

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The Parkinson’s Foundation announced that it investing $6.2 million across 53 research grants, part of its commitment to advancing promising work into the disease.

The grants will support Parkinson’s clinical trials and research centers. They also include career development and fellowships for scientists working in multiple aspects of related research.

“Our goal at the Parkinson’s Foundation is to increase funding for researchers making significant contributions to advance our understanding of Parkinson’s disease,” John L. Lehr, foundation president and chief executive officer, said in a press release.“By investing in innovative research, we are making progress toward better therapies and ultimately, a cure for Parkinson’s.”

This year, the foundation’s increased its research investment by $2.2 million, allowing the inclusion of five additional movement disorders training awards and postdoctoral fellowships.

One grant recipient, Liana Rosenthal, MD, at Johns Hopkins University, was awarded the Parkinson’s Foundation Clinical Research Award. The $100,000 grant will be put toward a study of whether a form of the alpha-synuclein protein found in the brain can be a predictive biomarker of cognitive decline in patients who develop dementia.

Alpha-synuclein is the major component of Lewy bodies, protein clumps that develop inside nerve cells and contribute to neurodegeneration in Parkinson’s patients.

The outcomes of Rosenthal’s research may help improve how clinicians manage cognitive function decline and work to preserve patients’ quality of life.

“The support of the Parkinson’s Foundation will help determine whether specific strains of alpha-synuclein are biomarkers of PD disease progression,” Rosenthal said. “This grant is crucial to my career development by furthering my goal of becoming an independent clinical and translational researcher in Parkinson’s disease.”

Additional projects given Clinical Research Awards include an investigation into the role of glucocerebrosidase (GBA) — mutations in the GBA gene represent a significant Parkinson’s risk factor — in the propagation of Lewy bodies. It is led by Marie Davis, MD, PhD, VA Puget Sound.

Two other projects, by researchers in Greece and Germany, respectively, will investigate the role of a kinase called LRRK2 in Parkinson’s disease — whose mutated form is the greatest known genetic contributor to Parkinson’s — and the use of vitamin K2 in patients with the so-called mitochondrial Parkinson’s disease.

“Parkinson’s Foundation grants support the exploration of all aspects of Parkinson’s, from researchers studying genetics to therapies and the inner workings of the brain that can provide relief for people today and help for tomorrow,” said James Beck, PhD, the foundation’s chief scientific officer.

Winners were selected through a competitive application process reviewed by the foundation’s Scientific Advisory Board (SAB), which includes scientific experts and patient advocates.

The complete list of funded projects can be found in the press release.

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