NEWYORK, NY— The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research today announced approximately $2.5 million in total funding for five clinical research studies under its 2007 Clinical Discovery Program. In keeping with the Foundation’s focus on accelerating scientific solutions that can have a tangible effect on patients’ lives, this annual initiative funds clinical research projects with strong potential to yield new treatments for people living with PD.
“The Clinical Discovery Program is characteristic of the MJFF approach to translation: it vigorously aims to accelerate progress and directly benefit patients,” said Katie Hood, interim chief executive officer of The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. “Many potentially groundbreaking clinical ideas lack funding to move forward and gain traction. Under Clinical Discovery the Foundation partners with the teams that can execute the clinical research critical to moving good ideas one step closer to people with Parkinson’s disease.”
The Foundation launched the Clinical Discovery Program in 2004 and has awarded approximately $10 million for 17 projects under the initiative to date. Each of this year’s studies will focus specifically on improving the patient’s quality of life. Funded projects will address common and debilitating aspects of PD such as depression, dyskinesia (the uncontrollable movements that are a side effect of long-term levodopa treatment), sleep disorders and excessive salivation.
“The Michael J. Fox Foundation is committed to driving clinical research to improve the lives of the nearly five million people living with Parkinson’s,” said Irene Richard, MD, who was appointed today as the senior medical advisor at the Foundation. “The Clinical Discovery Program is a cornerstone of the Foundation’s emphasis on speeding promising ideas toward the clinic with the goal of getting them into patients’ hands that much faster.”
2007 Clinical Discovery Program Awardees
- Roger Albin, MD, of the University of Michigan will focus on improving sleep disorders, a common problem in Parkinson’s. Dr. Albin will investigate the role of serotonin neurons in PD-related sleep-disordered breathing. He will visualize serotonin neurons using an advanced medical imaging technique, then study patients’ breathing patterns in a sleep lab overnight. The identification of a brain region that is altered in people with PD who have sleep-disordered breathing could lead to the development of therapies targeting this region.
- In keeping with recent findings that exercise can be an important part of a Parkinson’s treatment regimen, Bastiaan Bloem, PhD, of UniversityMedicalCenter in the Netherlands, will compare a general physical therapy program to a physical therapy program combined with PARKFIT. PARKFIT is a physical activity program specifically designed for people with PD involving a personalized exercise program with individual counseling by a coach. Dr. Bloem will be leveraging The Netherlands’ unique infrastructure of 16 regional physical therapy sites and a national registry of patients that can be used for clinical studies. He will be enrolling 550 PD subjects for his study.
- Jeff Bronstein, MD, PhD, of the University of California at Los Angeles will test whether helicobacter pylori, a bacterium that infects the stomach and intestine, causes disturbances in levodopa absorption that result in motor fluctuations. Dr. Bronstein will test the frequency of the bacterial infection in PD patients with motor fluctuations and enroll those who test positive for the bacterium in a double-blind trial using a cocktail of antibiotics to eradicate the infection and determine whether the fluctuations are reduced.
- Elkan Gamzu, PhD, of NeuroHealing Pharmaceuticals, Inc. will focus on excessive salivation that leads to drooling, a major quality of life issue for people with Parkinson’s disease. NeuroHealing Pharmaceuticals is developing a device to deliver a drug called tropicamide to the salivary glands and inhibit salivation via a slow-dissolving oral strip. Dr. Gamzu and colleagues will carry out a double-blind, placebo-controlled experiment to establish appropriate dosing and determine whether tropicamide is effective in reducing uncontrolled salivation.
- Paola Piccini, MD, PhD, FRCP, of Imperial College Division of Neuroscience in London hypothesizes that serotonin neurons are responsible for levodopa-induced dyskinesias. Using an advanced medical imaging technique, she will visualize serotonin neurons before and after levodopa administration and correlate serotonin changes to alterations in dopamine levels. She will also test whether a drug targeting a specific serotonin receptor decreases dyskinesias. Under a previous MJFF award, Anders Björklund, PhD, of LundUniversity in Sweden conducted a similar experiment using rodents. Dr. Piccini will now work to translate his findings to see if they hold true in humans.
More information on all funded projects, including grant abstracts and researcher bios, is available at www.michaeljfox.org.