The Michael J. Fox Foundation Awards $1.6 Million to Research Biomarker for Parkinson's Disease
The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF) announced today that it has awarded $1.6 million to fund eight research projects for the development or validation of a diagnostic test, also known as a biomarker, for Parkinson’s disease (PD). The Foundation launched its Biomarker Initiative in April 2002, calling for applications from scientists to research this vital issue in Parkinson’s disease.
“Development of biomarkers for Parkinson’s disease would dramatically accelerate the understanding of how Parkinson’s disease progresses as well as research on its etiology,” explained Dr. William Langston, MD, CEO of the Parkinson’s Institute and MJFF chief scientific advisor. “There is a substantial rate of incorrect diagnosis, particularly in the earliest stages of the illness. There is wide agreement among the scientific community that the absence of biomarkers is a major barrier in our advancement toward finding the cause and cure. Other groups interested in Parkinson’s research, including the National Institutes of Health, will be following these studies closely.”
At present, there is no definitive diagnostic test for PD and clinical diagnosis is based on a patient’s medical history and neurological examination. The misdiagnosis rate is estimated to be as high as 25 percent. While The Michael J. Fox Foundation designed the initiative to encourage the development of multiple types of biomarkers, applications were reviewed with sensitivity toward characteristics that would allow the biomarker to be easily reproduced and translated to clinical practice.
From an international pool of 78 applicants, five proposals were fully funded. An additional three proposals were awarded one-year, $50,000 pilot grants to bolster their research efforts. Pilot grants are a new funding mechanism from the Fox Foundation designed to cultivate promising scientific ideas that require additional preliminary data before qualifying for full funding support.
“With this initiative we wanted to cast a wide net and encourage innovative approaches to a very specific scientific question,” explained
In addition to The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation contributed $250,000 to this program, which awarded grants to the following researchers:
M. Flint Beal, MD
Matt Farrer, PhD
Thomas R. Guilarte, PhD
Steven R. Gullans, PhD
Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Michael G. Schlossmacher, MD
Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Matthew P. Galloway, PhD
Rolf Gruetter, PhD
Peter A. LeWitt, MD
William Beaumont Hospital Research Institute
The biomarker initiative is a direct outcome of discussions held during MJFF’s ongoing series of strategic scientific meetings to assess potential high-impact areas of Parkinson’s research and determine how MJFF can most effectively advance the state of the science. Several of these meetings underscored the need for and potential benefits of a PD biomarker, and MJFF is leading the effort to stimulate research and development.
The Biomarker program is one element of the Foundation’s research agenda to eliminate Parkinson’s disease within the decade. At the end of 2002, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research funded more than $18 million in research aimed at finding a cure for the disease. In addition, the Foundation partnered with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on their funding of an incremental $9.5 million in “Fast Track” research projects.