For two members of MJFF’s research team, it was an incredibly busy week at the Movement Disorder Society’s International Congress in Dublin, Ireland—filled with presentations and meetings with grant awardees, industry partners and patients. But, if anything, they seem more energized upon their return home. Excited to have represented the Foundation and made so many new connections, they were eager to continue their work on behalf of Parkinson’s patients.
Mark Frasier, PhD, presented for the Foundation—on both Fox Trial Finder and the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI). Maurizio Facheris, MD, MSc, as the Foundation’s in-house clinician, participated in numerous sessions and reported back to the research team.
MDS is an opportunity to see what’s out there in PD research, and to get an update on emerging results in clinical trials. As Mark and Maurizio were already tuned in to most findings shared in Dublin, the congress reinforced their belief the Foundation has its finger on the pulse of the latest—and most promising—research. Mark says, “We’re definitely on it.”
Fox Trial Finder was a big success at the Congress, earning a blue ribbon and a spot on the guided poster tour. But Mark especially enjoyed how this new tool enabled him to engage with over 1,000 patients at several events. Patients came from across Ireland to take part in the conference. “I was surprised and flattered—everyone wanted to have their picture taken with me,” he says. “No matter where you are, the Fox Foundation really means something to people.”
While he wasn’t a student all that long ago, Maurizio reflected on how different an experience today’s students would have. “When I was in medical school, Parkinson’s disease was only thought of as a movement disorder. And we relied on three cardinal symptoms to diagnose it. But now we see it affects so much more than the motor system,” he says. He also noted how much the field of genetics has changed in less than 10 years, and how the focus has evolved from treating just the symptoms to looking to stop or slow disease progression.
Mark says, “Overall, I’m optimistic about what’s in the pipeline. I feel we’re on the right path.”
When asked how his experience at MDS differed this year than his last congress in 2006, Mark said he was a lot busier this time and knew many more people. At Kyoto in 2006, he’d only been at the Foundation for six months. Not only did he know more people now, but “we have our hands in so much more,” he says. “We’ve really established ourselves as a major player—with industry and researchers from around the globe. And we’re able to fund a lot more. It’s clear that we’re tapped in and people want our opinion.”
Having attended the congress multiple times before, Maurizio had already made a number of clinical connections. But it was different as a Foundation staff member. He laughs and says, “People answered my calls this time—I was really in demand! But truly, I love being a representative of the Foundation. It is an honor. And it just makes you feel good.”