This evening The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinsonís Research (MJFF) co-hosts a celebratory gala in honor of our new collaborative research alliance with the Bachmann-Strauss Dystonia and Parkinson Foundation (BSDPF) (first announced in September 2014) and confers an inaugural prize in dystonia research.
Building on nearly two decades of working together toward curing these diseases together, Michael J. Fox and Todd Sherer, CEO of MJFF, will present the first Bachmann-Strauss Prize for Excellence in Dystonia Research to Xandra Breakefield, PhD, for major scientific contributions to the study of this underrecognized condition. Dr. Breakefield led a team who identified the gene responsible for early-onset dystonia. This opened the door to improved clinical diagnosis and the development of deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery as an effective treatment option for dystonia.
The gala also salutes supporters and advocates who have partnered with Bonnie to increase awareness and scientific progress, such as Nancy, Jeff and Jake Silverman. The Silverman family founded Jakeís Ride, an annual bike ride that has raised $2 million to date to support dystonia research in Short Hills, New Jersey. The ride is named for Jake, Nancy and Jeffís son, who was diagnosed with dystonia at age 10. After undergoing DBS, Jake, now 19 and a student at American University, has thrived through his career as a student and now embodies the positive spirit and high quality of life attainable for many living with dystonia today.
The evening concludes with an award presented to Bonnie Strauss, BSDPF founder. More than 35 years ago, Bonnie began experiencing neck spasms and after five years, was diagnosed with dystonia. Having seen other family live with Parkinsonís disease, she launched her foundation to advance research and patient care for the benefit of those living with dystonia. Over the course of the foundationís 20-year history, Bonnie and the foundationís research partners (including MJFF) and supporters contributed to vital advances in the field, including the establishment of four Centers of Excellence uniting research and patient care to speed treatment breakthroughs and cures for Parkinsonís and dystonia.