$1.9 Million Awarded Through Community Fast Track 2005
Community Fast Track is a pipeline for innovative concepts in basic Parkinsonís research. The 2005 program departs from previous years in duration of funding, which has been shortened from two years to one, with the possibility of supplemental funding if research teams meet certain one-year milestones and have a plan in place to address next steps. The change was implemented to encourage greater scientific risk-taking and accountability.
ďWith Community Fast Track, the Foundation casts a wide net for new ideas every year,Ē said Deborah W. Brooks, MJFF president and CEO. ďBy limiting initial grant funding to one year and increasing the focus on rapid deliverables, weíve enhanced our ability to identify and quickly push forward the studies with the greatest promise to yield meaningful new therapeutic interventions.Ē
The majority of awardees will work to generate new neuroprotective strategies with potential to yield the ďholy grailĒ of Parkinsonís research: therapies to slow or stop disease progression. Marina Emborg, MD, PhD, will test pioglitazone (Actos), an approved type-II diabetes drug, for possible protective effects in animal models of Parkinsonís. James Connor, PhD, will study mice lacking the gene that regulates iron levels in cells to determine whether iron imbalance can result in dopamine neurodegeneration. Baoji Xu, PhD, will test the hypothesis that reduced levels of the growth factor BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) can result in loss of dopamine neurons in mice. Chenjian Li, PhD, will look for nigrostriatal deficits and progressive dopamine neuron death in mice genetically engineered to express mutated forms of the LRRK2 gene. Mutations in LRRK2 have been linked to both familial and sporadic forms of Parkinsonís.
Other awardees will investigate potential new approaches to alleviate the symptoms of Parkinsonís and/or reduce levodopa-induced dyskinesias. Anders BjŲrklund, MD, PhD, will test whether the presence or absence of serotonin neurons affects dyskinesias in a rodent model of Parkinsonís. Angela Cenci-Nilsson, MD, PhD, will investigate if and how levodopa and dopamine agonists affect growth of new blood vessels in the brain and/or disrupt the blood-brain barrier, and whether these effects in turn play a role in causing dyskinesias.
One awardee, Susan McConnell, PhD, aims to improve outcomes for cell transplantation therapy in Parkinsonís. Dr. McConnell will work to identify factors the brain uses to guide dopamine neuronsí axons to their target areas in the striatum. This knowledge could help improve the ability of transplanted dopamine cells to incorporate, survive and function in a host brain.
Twelve national and local Parkinsonís disease groups teamed together with MJFF to fund Community Fast Track 2005. Contributors to the program include the Parkinsonís Unity Walk, The Parkinson Alliance, Inc., the Lawrence County Parkinsonís Association, Parkinson Association of Northern California Sacramento, the Parkinsonís Association of the
The following is a complete list of Community Fast Track 2005 awardees:
Veerle Baekelandt, PhD
Anders BjŲrklund, MD, PhD
Angela Cenci-Nilsson, MD, PhD
James Connor, PhD
Marina Emborg, MD, PhD
Raul Gainetdinov, MD
Francois Gonon, PhD
Tong Joh, PhD
Chenjian Li, PhD
Susan McConnell, PhD
Gregory Petsko, DPhil
Horst Simon, PhD
Stephen Traynelis, PhD