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The Michael J. Fox Foundation Calls for Collaboration in Genetic Studies

The Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) has announced it would fund up to $1 million in its latest program to encourage collaboration in the study of the genetics of Parkinson’s disease through its Global Genetics Consortia initiative.

“Genetic links to Parkinson’s disease offer some of the most important clues today in how we can better understand the cause and treatment of the disease,” said Dr. J. William Langston, chief scientific advisor to MJFF and the CEO of The Parkinson’s Institute.   “However, scientists have been hindered not only by the sheer quantity of data, but also by the fact that much of it exists in information ‘silos.’ This initiative is a major step in removing roadblocks and stimulating progress in the field.”

Recently, genetic factors have evolved into an area of great promise that could help scientists to understand the cause of the disease. Yet the field lacks a mechanism by which individual scientists can optimize work through shared information.  This program is designed to establish close, longer-term collaborations in genetic epidemiology, encouraging researchers to share data, and helping to corroborate its statistical and functional validity.

The initiative will seek to characterize the role of genes in patient susceptibility to Parkinson’s disease risk, as well as disease progression and response to drug treatment.  Some areas of interest will include the assessment of gene mutations such as that in the Parkin gene, the gathering of data obtained across different ethnic studies and the assessment of genotypes from family studies.

Scientists will be asked to form a consortium of at least two institutions by pooling their data to derive more significant conclusions about a fundamental question in Parkinson’s disease.  They will be required to demonstrate both novel statistical approaches and a plan for data sharing in the future.  Researchers who receive grants through the MJFF program will be also be asked to submit data to an even larger genetic database administered by the National Institute of Health (NIH).

Letters of intent are due by November 12, 2003and final applications will be due December 18, 2003.  Funding is anticipated by Spring 2004.

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