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Michael J. Fox Foundation and Elan Commit up to $2 Million to Drive Novel Therapies for Parkinson's

NEWYORK, NY — The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF) is committing up to $2 million for research projects to drive disease-modifying therapies for Parkinson’s disease by advancing well-validated drug targets along the therapeutics development pipeline. The funding will be awarded under a new initiative, Novel Approaches to Drug Discovery for Parkinson’s Disease, made possible by generous leadership funding from the neuroscience-based biotech firm Elan Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

“The unique advantage of this program is the potential it offers to rapidly advance promising lead compounds or biologics toward the clinic,” said Deborah W. Brooks, president and CEO of The Michael J. Fox Foundation. “If therapeutic approaches selected for investigation warrant further development, Elan will be poised to work with grant recipients to carry the work forward without delay.” 

Novel Approaches complements the Foundation’s existing Target Validation initiative, an annual funding program that has helped the Foundation establish a strong presence in early-stage drug discovery for PD. Both programs provide critical resources for underfunded stages of the drug development process and reflect the Foundation’s emphasis on bridging early discovery work and late-stage translational research to “de-risk” industry investment in new PD therapeutics.

Target Validation provides funding to determine whether altering a particular cellular target hypothesized to be involved in PD is indeed beneficial in animal models of the disease. Novel Approaches picks up where Target Validation leaves off, by focusing exclusively on targets whose potential benefit has already been demonstrated in at least one animal model of Parkinson’s. The program is designed to drive work on targets for which lead compounds or biologics have been identified, but which require additional studies to advance through preclinical evaluation in vitro and in vivo.

“Elan is pleased to join forces with The Michael J. Fox Foundation to drive ‘the next steps’ that can move a therapeutic compound or biologic into later stages of development,” said Dale Schenk, Chief Scientific Officer of Elan Pharmaceuticals, Inc. “By providing grant recipients with a clear opportunity for follow-on funding and partnership, we can get that much closer to attaining the ultimate goal — to provide patients suffering from Parkinson’s with a therapy that slows or stops progression of this terrible disease.”

The Foundation is launching Target Validation 2007 and Novel Approaches to Drug Discovery for Parkinson’s Disease concurrently. Applicants may apply to both programs, but may not submit the same application to both. Proposals not deemed appropriate for Novel Approaches may, at the Foundation’s discretion, be considered for Target Validation if they are within the scope and intent of that program.

The overall selection of program awardees will be made exclusively by the Foundation under its standard peer-review process. The full Request for Applications (RFA) is available on the Foundation’s Web site,, together with pre-proposal application forms. Pre-proposals are required and must be submitted online by December 6, 2006. Pre-proposals will be reviewed by the Foundation’s scientific staff and a panel of scientific experts. Applicants whose pre-proposals are determined to meet the review criteria will be invited to submit full application proposals. Funding is anticipated by May 2007.

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