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Michael J. Fox Foundation Commits up to $10 Million for LEAPS 2007 Initiative

NEWYORK, NY — The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF) has announced the launch of its LEAPS (Linked Efforts to Accelerate Parkinson’s Solutions) 2007 funding effort, committing up to $10 million to support ambitious research projects that will translate into new treatments or otherwise have a tangible impact on Parkinson’s disease research. LEAPS is a novel research paradigm designed to hasten progress toward better Parkinson’s disease therapies and a cure by funding collaborative, milestone-driven approaches to major unanswered research questions.

LEAPS captured the imagination of the scientific community and attracted innovative and potentially high-impact concepts in 2003 and 2005,” said Tim Greenamyre, MD, PhD, director of the Pittsburgh Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases and a member of the MJFF scientific advisory board, who chairs the LEAPS effort. “As the program continues to gain recognition and attention throughout the Parkinson’s research field, we are confident that our third outing will catalyze another round of similarly creative and exciting projects.”

LEAPS takes a “top-down” approach, requiring that teams start by outlining a particular outcome or set of outcomes they are seeking, and then draft and implement a realistic workplan that can get them to their goal. The program is intended to drive projects encompassing work from proof of principle through Phase II trials. Some of the impressive academic-industry partnerships funded under LEAPS to date have focused on advancing encapsulated cell technology to deliver GDNF, a trophic factor that has shown potential in preclinical trials to slow or stop PD progression; developing a form of gene therapy in which clinicians would be able to control gene expression in a patient’s brain following transplantation; and investigating a therapy to inhibit alpha-synuclein, a protein whose overexpression is linked to Parkinson’s risk.

LEAPS is in many ways emblematic of the Foundation’s overall research strategy,” said Deborah W. Brooks, the Foundation’s president and CEO. “Our focus is on driving the best research into the clinic and to patients. LEAPS leverages academic-industry collaboration and pooled resources to create teams that include experts in every phase of the development pipeline, from discovery work to early clinical research. The model accelerates ‘handoffs’ that keep promising approaches moving steadily forward.”

LEAPS are multi-year, multi-million dollar grants awarded to “all-star” research teams focused on making a major, practical step forward in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. LEAPS investigators interact regularly with MJFF staff and advisors to discuss elements of the project, research directions and progress against stated milestones.

Grants will be awarded based on the potential impact and scientific merit of the chosen research question, probability of success in developing new treatments or otherwise accelerating progress in Parkinson’s science, leadership and team track record, as well as other criteria. The Foundation expects to invest a total of $10 million; applicants may propose projects lasting up to four years. The number of awards granted ultimately will depend on the scientific merit of proposals received.

Research teams interested in applying should visit the Foundation’s Web site,, for access to the RFP and instructions for submitting the pre-proposal online by 6 p.m. ET on March 20, 2007. Grants are expected to be awarded by August 2007.

LEAPS is a key element of The Michael J. Fox Foundation’s aggressive research agenda aimed at accelerating a cure for Parkinson’s disease. To date, the Foundation has funded $85 million in research directly or through partnerships. For more information, visit

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