Erwan Bezard heads a novel research center, the Institute of Neurodegenerative Diseases (IND), which brings together pre-clinical laboratory scientists with clinical researchers, who share in the development of potential treatments for neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinsonís.
Erwan is also a Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) Scientific Advisory Board member, a visiting professor at the China Academy of Medical Sciences in Beijing, and a frequent consultant to drug companies looking to develop new treatments for central nervous system disorders. Each of these responsibilities plays a critical role leading toward the major goal of his lifeís work: to find a disease-modifying treatment for Parkinsonís disease (PD).
MJFF speaks with Erwan, an avid horseback rider when away from the office, in the latest of our monthly feature, Three Questions for a Researcher. Read on to get to know him and his work a little better.
MJFF: What is the biggest challenge you face in your research today?
EB: Stopping the progression of Parkinsonís disease. Weíve become much better at managing the disease on a daily basis, but the real unmet need for the Parkinsonís community is to find a disease-modifying therapy. We aspire to do this work at IND.
Itís important to remember that neurology on the whole is a very young science, and weíve been able to develop symptomatic therapies for PD with a relatively basic understanding of the circuitry of the brain. Now, we need to go further in depth to better understand the physiology of the neurons in the substantia nigra, and how they might act differently during Parkinsonís disease. So far, this has not proved to be an easy task.†
MJFF: What is one thing people would be surprised to know about your daily work with PD?
EB: At IND, we have multiple experts from various fields all working together in a single department with a focused goal: To find novel targets for developing new treatments for PD. Physiologists, cell biologists, anatomists, neurologists, and pathologists are all in the same location, working on therapeutic solutions. We are hopeful that this unity of purpose will speed Parkinsonís drug discovery.
MJFF: How do you unwind after work?†
EB: Iím an avid horseback rider. Every Sunday, my family and I compete in horse-jumping competitions near our home in Southwest France.†
Iíd say that my wife is probably the best rider in the crew, and maybe I am the most adventurous. But the future of the family rides with our 14-year-old son: He recently finished third in his age group in a national competition.†