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Michael J. Fox Foundation Commits $10 Million for Second LEAPS Program

NEWYORK, NY – The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF) today announced the launch of a second LEAPS (Linked Efforts to Accelerate Parkinson’s Solutions) 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 in the study of Parkinson’s disease by funding collaborative, milestone-driven approaches to tackle important research questions. The 2003 LEAPS program successfully attracted innovative and potentially high-impact concepts from the research community, and the Foundation hopes to build upon that experience with the 2005 LEAPS program.   

“We’ve already seen preliminary evidence that the LEAPS model works in bringing together outstanding teams of researchers to focus on a common goal,” said Tim Greenamyre, MD, PhD, director of the Pittsburgh Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases and a member of the MJFF scientific advisory board, who will continue to serve as chairman of the LEAPS effort. “Parkinson’s is a complex disease and many fundamental questions remain unanswered. A team approach that includes experts from various disciplines and sectors is key to answering these questions and translating research into outcomes that have meaningful impact on patients’ lives.”     

Two projects from the first LEAPS program are currently underway. One project partners the Mayo Clinic’s extensive patient resources with Perlegen Sciences’ high-density array genotyping technology to identify major Parkinson’s disease susceptibility genes. The second award under the LEAPS program brings together an international team from nine institutions led by LundUniversity in Sweden to focus on advancing encapsulated cell technology to deliver the growth factor GDNF.

“LEAPS has become a fundamental part of our research strategy,” said MJFF president and CEO Deborah W. Brooks. “Increasingly, as we focus on moving ideas from the lab to the clinic and become engaged in drug discovery and development efforts we’re expanding our portfolio to include novel research models such as LEAPS that leverage collaboration and pooled resources.”

LEAPS are multi-year, multi-million dollar grants awarded to “all-star” research teams focused on answering a major research question that could result in a major, practical step forward in the understanding and treatment of Parkinson’s disease. 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 $10 million in the 2005 LEAPS program and will allow applicants to request funding for projects lasting up to four years. The Foundation expects to award multiple grants; however awards will be dependent upon the scientific merit of proposals received.

Research teams interested in applying should submit pre-proposals to the Foundation via email by 5:00pm ET on April 29, 2005 to Grants are expected to be awarded by October 2005. 


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