Six Parkinson’s Community Leaders Receive Advocacy Awards

Ana de Barros, PhD avatar

by Ana de Barros, PhD |

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Parkinson's Advocacy Awards

Six Parkinson’s community leaders have received 2018 Advocacy Awards for their efforts to push policies that benefit patients, families, caregivers and others.

Two of the winners were recognized for their role in establishing the Accelerating Medicines Partnership Program, which in January 2018 announced a new Parkinson’s disease focus.

Representatives of the Parkinson’s Foundation and the Michael J. Fox Foundation presented the awards during the Parkinson’s Policy Forum.

The winners are:

  • Charles Brown of Massachusetts, who received the Social Media Advocacy Award.
  • Kevin Mansfield, Oregon, the Year-round Advocacy Award.
  • Leslie Peters, Colorado, the Milly Kondracke Award for Outstanding Advocacy.
  • Dr. Francis Collins, the Morris K. Udall Award for Public Service.
  • Dr. Walter Koroshetz, the Morris K. Udall Award for Public Service.
  • Gus Bilirakis, Florida, the Morris K. Udall Award for Public Service.

Collins, Koroshetz and Bilirakis received the Udall Award for their commitment to improving public policy. The award is named for Morris K. Udall, a member of Congress for three decades who died of Parkinson’s in 1998.

Udall, who was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president in 1976, infused politics with a sense of humor, grace and dignity. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1980.

Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) since 2009, was one of those responsible for setting up the Accelerating Medicines Partnership Program. The goal of the pioneering, multi-pronged, public-private partnership program is to accelerate the development of new Parkinson’s treatments.

The NIH is leading the five-year collaboration, which includes government, the pharmaceutical industry, life sciences companies, and non-profit organizations. The program’s initial focus is identify biomarkers of Parkinson’s progression and assessing their potential as therapy targets.

“Advancing treatments for Parkinson’s disease is hampered by insufficient understanding of biological networks,” Collins said in a press release. “Drugs aimed at seemingly promising therapeutic targets fail in clinical trials. By combining our expertise and resources [the partners] hope to increase our collective odds of success in accelerating the development of effective treatments for a million Americans who suffer from this debilitating disease.”

The program will work with several Parkinson’s organizations, including The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health and the NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).

Koroshetz, one of the other Udall Award winners, has been the NINDS director since 2015. He was instrumental in establishing the Accelerating Medicines program in Parkinson’s disease. Koroshetz also oversees the eight Morris K. Udall Centers of Excellence for Parkinson’s Disease Research nationwide.

Bilirakis, the other Udall Award recipient, is a congressman representing the 12th district of Florida who is serving his sixth term in the House.

He is a long-time member and co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Parkinson’s Disease. He also serves on the Health Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA will also be a key partner in the Accelerating Medicines program, providing regulatory guidance for drug development.

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