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MJFF Research Staff Reflects on Some of 2011's Big Impact Projects

This week, the MJFF research staff reflected on some of the projects they worked on in 2011 that they believe could have the greatest impact on the Parkinson’s disease (PD) patient community.  Read on to find out directly from Foundation team members about some of the work being done to speed progress toward a cure.

“I’m enthusiastic about the progress made in 2011 on PPMI.  The study has now enrolled over 280 individuals to participate in the study, and data have been already downloaded more than 4,000 times by scientists in the research community at large to conduct independent studies toward verifying biomarkers for PD.   MJFF also helped make a specific lab test available to researchers that could help to measure the protein alpha-synuclein as a potential biomarker for the disease – a huge step forward.  Thanks to such advancements, I am hopeful that PPMI will in the future have a major impact on drug development for PD, tangibly benefiting those living with the disease.” – Mark Frasier, PhD, director of research programs

“I’m really proud that Fox Trial Finder is up and running, and working!  Launching this tool was, at the beginning, a well-informed experiment.  We weren’t sure if people would actually sign up and use it, and then understand and take advantage of its functionality once they did.  But already, since we launched in July, more than 2,000 volunteers have signed up, and they are using the tool the way we intended.  Meanwhile, clinical trial teams are telling us that Fox Trial Finder is increasingly becoming a key resource in connecting with volunteers for their trials. I’m optimistic that Fox Trial Finder could change the way that people think about clinical trial participation, and also, how they are able to connect with the trials that need them.” – Laura Dalle Pazze, associate director of research partnerships

“I’m proud of the development of new programs in 2011 geared toward the needs of those living with PD.  This year we decided to make repositioning one of our reoccurring programs, so that, by studying therapies that are already clinically available, we might potentially lessen the time and costs involved in finding drugs that could treat PD – getting them to patients much faster.  In December, we also announced $3.5 million in available funding to support the development of treatments to reduce levodopa-induced dyskinesias, a critical unmet need for those living with Parkinson’s today.”  -- Meredith Haupt, grant administrator, research programs

“During the course of 2011, MJFF supported over $15 million in research on the protein LRRK2, the greatest known genetic contributor to PD discovered to date.   Along the way, we worked to establish the largest network in the world of LRRK2 clinical sites studying people who carry the LRRK2 mutation, as well as a growing and collaborating consortium of researchers and companies that are focused on understanding how LRRK2 leads to PD.  I am hopeful that, as the Foundation continues to investigate LRRK2, we also can understand more about the disease on the whole.  This could, in turn, accelerate the development of therapies that will benefit everyone with PD.”  -- Brian Fiske, PhD, director of research programs

“This year MJFF was able to bring together four groups to participate in a unique project designed to identify and test compounds that could ultimately be used as imaging agents to show how the protein alpha-synuclein is distributed in the brain. The clumping of alpha-synuclein is the pathological hallmark of the disease, so, developing the ability to visualize its presence in the brain could be useful both as a biomarker for PD, and, also, as a tool for drug development.  For this reason, I am hopeful that this project could have a big impact on the patient community. ”   -- Jamie Eberling, PhD, associate director of research programs

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