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What We Fund: $8 Million in New Grants for Parkinson's Research

Beakers with MJFF logos

The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research (MJFF) announces 53 new grant awards totaling more than $8 million. These projects reflect our research strategy to define, measure and treat Parkinson's disease. We also awarded grants to develop the research tools the field needs to advance.

All of our funding is focused on our mission to find a cure for Parkinson's. Each step -- from basic research to understand the disease through clinical trials of potential drugs to stop it -- is designed to support that goal. Highlights of our latest grants follow. For more information on recent MJFF-supported projects, visit our funded grants page.

We seek to understand the causes of Parkinson's, its progression and the factors that account for the variability of the disease. We recently supported eight new grants in this area at a total of $3,020,291.

  • With MJFF funding, a team at the University of Toronto has been analyzing brains of Parkinson's patients with and without LRRK2 genetic mutations to understand similarities and differences in the disease's affects. With additional support, they are now examining brains of those with other genetic mutations to see the effect of those genes on the brain. This information could improve diagnosis and treatment options for Parkinson's and other brain diseases. 
  • Researchers at the University of Sydney received follow-on funding to delve into how activity of certain genes that increase risk for Parkinson's are related to increased levels of inflammation. Their results could impact current and future treatments in development for 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 29 new grants in this area at a total of $3,509,146.

  • At the University of Dundee, researchers are developing a biomarker to assess a person's susceptibility to Parkinson's disease. The team is developing a tool to measure activity in a pathway associated with mutations in two genes that increase risk for early-onset Parkinson's. This pathway is also involved in Parkinson's without a known genetic cause. 
  • Scientists at Denali Therapeutics are examining blood samples to determine if levels of LRRK2 protein measurable in blood vary by time of day and if these variances are different in people without Parkinson's. They will also examine also biological markers affected by LRRK2 to see if they vary by time of day or disease status. These findings could inform protocols for upcoming human clinical trials.

These awards directly fund the development of treatments to slow or stop Parkinson's and alleviate its symptoms. We recently supported five new grants in this area at a total of $986,267.

  • A team at Harvard Medical School is developing a therapy using induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) to replace midbrain cells that produce dopamine. The goal is to reduce or prevent the motor symptoms of Parkinson's, along with medication-induced dyskinesias. 
  • At McGill University, scientists are looking for compounds that activate Parkin, which could be developed into drugs for Parkinson's. Loss of Parkin activity is associated with both familial Parkinson's through inherited genetic mutations, as well as idiopathic Parkinson's.

We ensure the field has the research tools it needs to advance, such as assays, cells lines, and DNA plasmids. We recently supported 11 new grants in this area at a total of $499,607.

  • We are funding new tools to enable the development of drugs for important targets, including Rab35 and alpha-synuclein. Existing tools already available to researchers can be found on our website.
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