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The Michael J. Fox Foundation Awards $3 Million to Advance Parkinson's Disease Research

NEW YORK, NY — The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research today announced more than $3 million in previously unannounced awards ending the first quarter of 2010. The funded projects complement the Foundation’s annually occurring Pipeline Programs and Critical Challenges in Parkinson’s Disease initiatives, which aim to accelerate PD therapeutic development.

Many of the 17 different projects announced today provide additional funding to advance promising avenues of PD therapeutic development. John Sinclair, PhD, of the University of Cambridge is continuing his work to investigate the possible use of viral RNA to protect the neurons that die in Parkinson’s disease. Dr. Sinclair first received an award in 2008, under the Foundation’s Rapid Response Innovation Awards, to test his theory that a novel piece of viral RNA that keeps cells alive during infection can be used to develop a neuroprotective therapy for PD.

Gregory A. Petsko, DPhil of Brandeis University is investigating shapes that the protein alpha-synuclein may take within cells that can lead to its aggregation into Lewy bodies, a pathological hallmark of Parkinson’s disease. With previous MJFF support Dr. Petsko demonstrated that the inhibition of enzymes that cleave alpha-synuclein in yeast and mammalian cell models prevents cell death from the protein. The project announced today builds further on this research by studying the particular structure that makes alpha-synuclein more or less sensitive to these enzymes in order to determine whether this process can be targeted therapeutically.

Another project, led by Jochen Weishaupt, MD, of the University Hospital Goettingen in Germany is validating findings from earlier studies, funded under MJFF’s Target Validation awards, which demonstrated neuroprotective effects of a growth factor called G-CSF (granulocyte-colony stimulating factor) in pre-clinical models of PD. With additional funding from the Foundation, Dr. Weishaupt is testing an enhanced form of G-CSF called pegfilgrastim in other relevant pre-clinical models, a critical step in advancing G-CSF toward clinical trials.

The following is a complete list of funded projects. Grant abstracts and researcher bios are available on the Foundation’s Web site,

Prospective Validation of Risk Markers for the Development of Parkinson’s Syndromes

Daniela Berg, MD, University of Tuebingen

Optimization of Optical Coherence Tomography as a Biomarker for Parkinson’s Disease

Ivan Bodis-Wollner, SUNY Downstate Medical Center

A Generic Repository for Experimental Data

Gully Burns, DPhil, University of Southern California

Neoangiogenesis and Blood-Brain Barrier in L-DOPA-Induced Dyskinesia

Angela Cenci-Nilsson, MD, PhD, Lund University

Comparison and Actions of MANF and GDNF in Rodent Models of Parkinson's Disease

John W. Commissiong, PhD, Amarantus Therapeutics, Inc.

Making PSG Databases Available to Researchers

Karl Kieburtz, MD, MPH, University of Rochester Medical Center

Viral Overexpression of Alpha-Synuclein in Nonhuman Primates

Jeffrey H. Kodower, PhD, Rush University Medical Center

A Rodent Model of Pathological Gambling Associated with Medicated Parkinsonian Patients

T. Celeste Napier, PhD, Rush University Medical Center

Specific Inhibition of Nucleation of Alpha-Synuclein Aggregation as a Therapeutic Strategy

Gregory A. Petsko, DPhil, Brandeis University

Development of Potent Conformation-Specific Compounds Directed to Monomeric Alpha-Synuclein

Joshua Salafsky, PhD, Biodesy LLC

Novel Antibodies for the Delivery of Parkinson’s Therapeutics

Eric V. Shusta, PhD, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Evaluation of a Viral Non-coding RNA as a Neuroprotective and Neurorestorative Therapy in Chronic Models of Parkinson’s Disease

John Sinclair, PhD, University of Cambridge

Validation of VPS41, a Protein Involved in Lysosomal Trafficking, as a Target for Parkinson Disease Therapy

David G. Standaerdt, MD, PhD, University of Alabama at Birmingham

N-Acetylcysteine CSF Levels and Biomarkers in a Mouse Model of PD

Raymond Swanson, MD, University of California, San Francisco

Promoting Widespread Data Sharing Among Scientists

Michael W. Weiner, MD, Northern California Institute for Research and Education

Preclinical Examination of Pharmacodynamics and Neuroprotective Effects of Pegylated G-CSF in MPTP-Treated Non-Human Primates

Jochen Weishaupt, MD, University Hospital Goettingen

Generation of a Dorsal Motor Nucleus Specific Mouse Model of Alpha-Synuclein Overexpression to Study the Etiology of Autonomic Dysfunction in PD

Xiangdong Yang, MD, PhD, University of California, Los Angeles

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