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Partner Scientist Runs Marathon for Parkinson's

In the Spring 2012 issue of "Accelerating the Cure," we hear from Chris Coffey, PhD, director of the Clinical Trials Statistical and Data Management Center at the University of Iowa. On behalf of Team Fox, he ran — and finished — the 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon in 5:02:59 on October 9, 2011.

I head a research group at the University of Iowa. One of our projects is to manage the analysis of data being generated by the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI), The Michael J. Fox Foundation’s landmark biomarker study. The lack of biomarkers of disease progression is a major hurdle in the development of new treatments for PD. Validated biomarkers of disease progression would dramatically accelerate PD drug development.

Like a lot of researchers, I’ve been inspired by MJFF. I knew early on that I wanted to go beyond my scientific relationship with MJFF — I decided to run a marathon to raise funds as part of Team Fox. Reading through the inspirational stories from other Team Fox members, I get the sense that I’m not the typical participant. Many have a personal connection to the disease. Although I know people who have had PD, I don’t have an immediate family member with the disease, nor have I ever been a caregiver for someone with PD.

I ran the marathon to honor the individuals who are volunteering as control participants in PPMI. It takes a special kind of courage to dedicate oneself to the commitment required of this study when one doesn’t have the disease oneself.

I started my marathon training June 2011. Eighteen weeks later, I found myself toeing the starting line in Chicago and beginning my journey. In many ways, the control volunteers, PD participants, staff at MJFF and PPMI investigators have also started a marathon. While mine only lasted a few hours, the PPMI marathon will take much longer to complete. But thanks to the dedication of all involved, I am optimistic that when we reach the finish line, we will have made serious progress toward finding a cure for this disease.

Learn more about PPMI.

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