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The Michael J. Fox Foundation Commits $10 Million to New "LEAPS" Research Program

The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF) announced yesterday a new Parkinson’s research program, LEAPS (Linked Efforts to Accelerate Parkinson’s Solutions), designed to have a practical impact on lives of Parkinson’s patients.  MJFF has committed a minimum of $10 million to the program.

“LEAPS is an opportunity for scientists to form an “all-star” team to answer a major question in Parkinson’s science,” said J. Timothy Greenamyre, MD, PhD, professor of neurology at Emory University and member of the MJFF scientific advisory board, who will serve as chairman of the LEAPS advisory board. 

While in recent years there has been considerable progress in a number of important areas of Parkinson’s disease (PD) research, Dr. Greenamyre noted that many big questions about the disease remain unanswered.  MJFF created LEAPS as a new paradigm to jump-start progress through collaborative, multidisciplinary research efforts that translate into new treatments or otherwise have a tangible impact on PD. 

“The LEAPS program is the next step in the Foundation’s research funding strategy,” said Deborah W. Brooks, MJFF executive director.  “By providing multi-million dollar, multi-year grants, LEAPS allows multi-disciplinary teams to collaborate on critical “big picture” research questions that can be addressed more effectively in a team setting than by an individual researcher working alone.”  Ms. Brooks noted that LEAPS would complement the Foundation’s ongoing portfolio of directive programs and investigator-initiated grants.

Examples of questions where a LEAPS grant might be appropriate include:  How can we slow or halt the progression of Parkinson’s disease?   How can we prevent or control levodopa-induced dyskinesias? How can we use neurotrophic factors to repair the Parkinson’s brain?

The Foundation has created an independent advisory board comprised of scientists and selected laypeople to oversee all LEAPS-related matters, including application review, program structure and progress assessment.  In addition to Dr. Greenamyre, scientific members will include:

  • Gerald D. Fischbach, MD.  Former director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Dr. Fischbach is currently Columbia University's dean of the College of the Physicians and Surgeons and executive vice president for Health and Biomedical Sciences.  Dr. Fischbach is also the Harold and Margaret Hatch Professor of the University in the Faculties of Health Sciences and of Medicine.
  • Paul Greengard, PhD.  Director of the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research at The Rockefeller University, Dr. Greengard’s pioneering work in delineating how neurons communicate with one another earned him the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine.
  • G. Frederick Wooten, Jr., MD.  Dr. Wooten is chairman of the Department of Neurology at the University of Virginia and a well-known Parkinson’s disease expert.

The Foundation anticipates awarding between two and four LEAPS grants this year, with project periods from two to four years.  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. 

MJFF has scheduled an informational conference call to be held on Tuesday, May 20, 2003 in order to present an overview of the program and detail the application requirements.  The session will also allow potential applicants to engage in a question and answer period.  For more information on how to register for and participate in this session, please send an e-mail to

LEAPS augments the Foundation’s aggressive research agenda to funding initiatives which will accelerate the curing of Parkinson’s disease.  To date, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research has funded nearly $27 million in research aimed at finding a cure for the disease, either directly or through partnerships.   In addition, the Foundation has announced another $4 million in research programs on inflammation and dyskinesias, expected to be awarded by July 2003.

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