The Michael J. Fox Foundation this week presented Warren Hirst, PhD, Director of Neurology Research at Biogen, with the 2018 J. William Langston Award for service to the Foundation.
"Warren has been extremely generous in sharing his time and expertise to advance the goals of The Michael J. Fox Foundation and the Parkinson's community," said MJFF Senior Vice President of Research Programs Brian Fiske, PhD. "We rely on the partnership with external advisors to help us define priorities and drive initiatives, and Warren has made significant contributions to many Foundation programs."
Over the past year, Hirst has served as a reviewer of many grant applications and attended multiple MJFF meetings to share perspective on the state of the field and advise on Foundation investments. He is a current member of our Executive Scientific Advisory Board.
Before joining Biogen in 2016, Hirst worked at Pfizer. Both companies are partners in our landmark study to better define and measure Parkinson's disease: the Parkinson's Progression Markers Initiative.
Hirst's work focuses on development and application of precision therapies against genetic targets. MJFF has funded his studies into activity of the LRRK2 and GCase proteins in people with idiopathic Parkinson's (cause unknown). These proteins are impacted by Parkinson's-associated genetic mutations, and therapies against these targets are already in clinical trials. More information on their activity in idiopathic patients could help test those treatments in a wider population.
Hirst also was a member of the MJFF-led LRRK2 Safety Initiative, which investigated the safety of LRRK2 inhibitor drugs. That critical program proved it was safe to continue development of this drug class.
MJFF established the J. William Langston Award in 2006 to show appreciation for our hard-working advisors. Langston was a pivotal scientific advisor at the Foundation's outset and worked tirelessly with MJFF staff in those early years to pull together world-leading experts and coordinate our first funding initiatives. The Langston Award is a reflection of his original spirit and commitment to the Foundation.
Hirst is donating the $25,000 award grant to train a post-doctoral researcher in the Laboratory of Molecular Neurodegeneration at the University of Oxford, led by Richard Wade-Martins MA, DPhil.