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Foundation Launches $5 Million Industry-Focused Therapeutics Development Initiative

NEWYORK, NY — The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research today announced its new Therapeutics Development Initiative, designed to promote industry programs focused on preclinical research for Parkinson’s disease. Under this initiative the Foundation will provide up to $5 million in funding to drive translational research that otherwise would not move forward.

Recent scientific advances in the understanding of Parkinson’s disease and its biochemical pathways have resulted in a greater number of promising targets for Parkinson’s therapeutics. Yet with rising costs of drug discovery and development, pharmaceutical and biotech firms increasingly are able to investigate only a subset of the compounds and targets they view as promising. The Therapeutics Development Initiative is intended to help bridge this translational gap, encouraging for-profit entities with central nervous system or allied development programs to focus on PD therapeutics whose development would likely stall without Foundation support.

“With this initiative the Foundation aims to serve as a catalyst, encouraging an overall expansion of industry interest in Parkinson’s disease,” said Deborah W. Brooks, the Foundation’s president and CEO. “Our goal is to foster productive long-term relationships with biotech and pharmaceutical firms as part of our strategy to drive translational and clinical research that will yield new therapies for patients.” With an estimated one million people living with Parkinson’s in the United States, and six million worldwide, the PD patient population represents a sufficient market to attract industry attention.

Priorities for funding under this initiative include:

  • Development of an agent effective in slowing or stopping disease progression. This priority is of particular interest given that no such treatment currently exists.
  • Novel drug delivery mechanisms and/or surgical procedures.
  • Innovative therapeutic approaches to treat the motor and non-motor symptoms of PD, such as cognitive dysfunction and digestive disorders.
  • Therapeutic approaches to alleviate complications of PD treatment including dyskinesias.
  • Investigations of Parkinson’s as a secondary application for therapeutics already in development for symptoms represented in the general population, such as sleep disorders and depression.

The new initiative is part of the Foundation’s increasing emphasis on clinical and translational research. In 2005, approximately 90 percent of the Foundation’s research funding went to translational and clinical projects.

The Therapeutics Development Initiative complements existing Foundation programs such as the annual Target Validation program, designed to accelerate the rate at which new Parkinson’s therapies are brought to market by supporting the applied science critical to legitimizing identified drug targets. The Foundation also works with industry through its large-scale, multidisciplinary LEAPS (Linked Efforts to Accelerate Parkinson’s Solutions) projects, which drive a single important research question forward to the clinic. The Foundation has funded nearly $16 million in research under Target Validation and LEAPS to date. Additionally the Foundation awarded $740,000 under its Clinical Discovery Program in 2005 for a Phase I clinical trial led by Ceregene, a San Diego biotech firm, testing gene therapy delivery of the growth factor neurturin.

Letters of Intent for projects under this initiative are due by June 26, 2006. Funding is anticipated by December 2006.

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