Michael J. Fox Foundation Awards $4.4 Million for Development of New Class of Parkinson’s Therapy
The LEAPS 2007 program was funded with a lead gift from the Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation. The Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation has been one of the most steadfast supporters of The Michael J. Fox Foundation since its inception.
“Dopamine replacement therapies have long been considered the ‘gold standard’ of Parkinson’s treatment. But they lose efficacy over time, alleviate only some of PD’s symptoms, and cause side effects that can be as debilitating as the disease itself,” said Katie Hood, CEO of MJFF. “Patients don’t think this status quo is good enough, and neither does our Foundation.
The death of dopamine neurons is a hallmark of PD pathology, and Parkinson’s scientists traditionally have focused their efforts on modulating aspects of the dopamine system. But recent insights into the physiology of the basal ganglia (a brain region affected in Parkinson’s disease) have shed light on the potential for treatments that could alleviate PD symptoms by “resetting” brain circuits. The glutamate system in particular has shown promise as a target for such treatments.
Glutamate, like dopamine, is a neurotransmitter — a signaling molecule that plays a role in transporting brain messages and controlling body functions. In previous work,
LEAPS are multi-year, multi-million, multi-disciplinary projects that bring together “all-star” teams of researchers to address questions with significant practical impact on the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. Continued funding is dependent on completion of predetermined milestones at specific stages.
In addition to coordinating principal investigator
C. David Weaver, PhD, Research Associate Professor of Pharmacology; Director, Vanderbilt Institute of Chemical Biology High-throughput Screening Facility; Director, New Leads Discovery, Vanderbilt Program in Drug Discovery — Dr. Weaver will oversee the high-throughput screening to identify initially promising lead compounds.
Colleen Niswender, PhD, Research Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmacology; Head, Molecular Pharmacology Team, Vanderbilt Program in Drug Discovery — Once lead compounds have been identified through high-throughput screening, Dr. Niswender will be responsible for screening them in cell-based assays to determine which hold the most promise to move on to testing in animal models.
Carrie K. Jones, PhD, Research Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacology; Head, In Vivo and Behavioral Pharmacology Group, Vanderbilt Program in Drug Discovery — Dr. Jones will spearhead the screening of lead compounds in rodent behavior models of Parkinson’s disease.
Yoland Smith, PhD, Professor, Department of Neurology, Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University — Dr. Smith, an expert in the neurophysiology of primate models of Parkinson’s, will oversee the testing of the most promising lead compounds in the final preclinical phase of the project.
Craig W. Lindsley, PhD, Associate Professor of Pharmacology and Chemistry; Director of Medicinal Chemistry, Vanderbilt Program in Drug Discovery; Director, Vanderbilt University MLSCN (Molecular Libraries Screening Center Network) Chemistry Center and Vanderbilt Institute of Chemical Biology Synthesis Core — Dr. Lindsey, a medicinal chemist, will hold ultimate responsibility for optimizing engineering of the compound that will be tested in the clinic.
To read a grant abstract and researcher bios, please visit www.michaeljfox.org.