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AD/PD 2024 Conference Highlights the Biological Era of Parkinson’s Disease

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The International Conference on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases and related neurological disorders (AD/PD 2024) commenced on March 5 through March 9 in Lisbon, Portugal, bringing together thousands of scientists, advocates and industry professionals from all over the world.  

The meeting began with a fireside chat featuring Michael J. Fox, the iconic actor who founded The Michael J. Fox Foundation, whose relentless advocacy and personal journey have become emblematic of the fight against Parkinson's disease (PD). Michael was joined by Ronald S. Lauder, international philanthropist, diplomat, public servant, entrepreneur, patron of the arts and Co-Founder of the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation. 

The fireside chat set the tone for the conference, highlighting the strides made in Alzheimer's disease (AD) and Parkinson's research while emphasizing the critical need for collaboration and investment. With Parkinson's research moving deeper into the biological era, the gathering served as a nexus for scientists, industry partners and field experts to exchange insights, unveil groundbreaking discoveries, forge partnerships and accelerate the development of therapeutics. 

Biological Era of Parkinson’s Disease and What’s Next? 

Jamie Eberling, PhD, senior vice president of research resources at MJFF facilitated a panel discussion with field experts on the development of biomarkers and imaging based on the biology of PD and AD and how it affects the future of research. The biological framework for staging of PD was well received by the drug developers and basic scientists on the panel, and they noted that defining PD based on biomarkers will enable the development of disease modifying therapies, similar to what we’ve seen in AD. 

Jamie added, “At this point in time, the framework is being developed as a drug development tool and its use for clinical management is premature. These are early days, and we will need to expand the framework to include new and additional biomarkers.”  

Ken Marek, MD, scientific advisor to MJFF and principal investigator of the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI), served as a plenary speaker at the conference, opening a discussion on the biological definition of PD and a proposed staging platform for what would be called neuronal synuclein disease, a disease definition based on alpha-synuclein pathology. He presented that the biological definition, combined with the development of a framework to stage people with measurable pathology whether or not they have symptoms, could accelerate research by empowering clinical trials to better enroll the right people in the right studies.    

The new biological era of PD also plays into the relationship between Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Better understanding the biology of PD enables us to examine the relationship between it and other neurodegenerative disorders, which can overlap in potentially important ways. 

That’s why conferences like AD/PD play an indispensable role in advancing the frontiers of neurodegenerative disease research, in both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s individually and together. By fostering interdisciplinary dialogue and fostering cross-sector partnerships, they bring together innovation and pave the way for tangible breakthroughs aimed at developing effective treatments and, ultimately, a cure.  

MJFF provides a multitude of resources and tools to Parkinson’s researchers, patients and caretakers. 

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