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What We Fund: $16.5 Million in New Grants for Parkinson’s Research

ProSavin Trial Results: Once Again, a Gene Therapy Approach to Parkinson’s Yields Encouraging Safety Data but Modest Efficacy

The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research (MJFF) announces 19 new grant awards totaling more than $16.5 million to projects that serve our mission to find a cure for Parkinson’s and improved treatments for those living with the disease today.

MJFF is funding as many projects as possible, collaborating with the Parkinson’s research community to continue to accelerate research. Support from our donors allows us to advance research to better define the biology and experience of Parkinson’s; measure disease risk, onset and progression; and treat the underlying disease and its symptoms. We also work with partners to enable progress across the field with important tools and resources. For more information on recent MJFF-supported projects, visit our Funded Studies page.

Better understanding the cascade of dysfunction that leads to Parkinson’s onset and progression can point to new ways to measure and treat it. We recently issued two new grants in this area at a total of $8.2 million. The highlighted project follows:

  • Kimberly Thompson, PhD, and her team at MapLight Therapeutics are using optogenetics, a tool that controls genetically modified brain cells through light, to identify brain circuits associated with anxiety and depression in Parkinson’s. Once identified, such circuits could become targets for therapies to reduce these non-motor symptoms. Anxiety and depression are common non-motor symptoms that can significantly affect quality of life for people with Parkinson's.

MJFF funds the discovery of methods to diagnose Parkinson’s, measure its progression and assess the effectiveness of treatments for it. We recently supported eight new projects in this area with a total of $6.1 million, including:

  • Amanda Banks Christini, MD, and her colleagues at Blackfynn, Inc. are continuing to build and improve the data infrastructure for the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI), our landmark longitudinal study. The goal of this project is to accelerate analysis of the comprehensive data collected through PPMI and enable the discovery of biomarkers and new treatments for Parkinson's disease.

More information on what causes and contributes to Parkinson’s gives drug developers more places to intervene to slow or stop its progression. We fund a variety of therapeutic approaches for more shots on goal toward cures. We also support work to improve quality of life for people with Parkinson’s. MJFF recently funded one project at $1.4 million.

  • Through prior funding from MJFF, Johannes Levin, MD, Armin Giese, MD, and the team at MODAG GmbH completed pre-clinical tests to assess anle138b. Anle138b is a small molecule that inhibits the formation of small clumps (called oligomers) of alpha-synuclein, which is a protein involved in Parkinson’s. With this grant, the investigators plan to conduct a Phase 1 human clinical trial in people with Parkinson’s disease.

Our Foundation builds infrastructure to enable and speed other studies. Our investments provide laboratory tools and patient data, for example, that other researchers can access quickly and easily. We recently granted more than $860,000 to eight projects supporting our ongoing efforts and fueling new resources. Highlights include the following:

  • Among these grants are several to maintain research tools during the ongoing pandemic, including the temporary storage of induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) lines and upkeep of alpha-synuclein KO and A53T KI models.

Thank you for your support of Parkinson’s research. Learn more about how you can help scientists better define, measure and treat Parkinson’s disease.

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