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Michael J. Fox Foundation Directs Drug Development and Discovery Effort to Stimulate Advances in Parkinson's

The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF) announced today that it has created a Drug Discovery and Development program to address obstacles that currently impede progress in bringing new Parkinson’s therapies to market. The first initiative will provide $1.5 million in funding to validate drug targets for Parkinson’s disease.

New advances in research, technology and the study of genomics have increased the number of promising therapeutic targets for Parkinson’s disease. Target validation, the process of determining that a molecular target is critically involved in a disease process, is a key activity in the drug development process. Yet, neither academics nor industry has consistently had or devoted the resources necessary to validate drug targets.

“An important step in the clinical translation of identified targets involves pharmacological screens and tests in disease models to confirm a targets’ therapeutic potential,” said J. William Langston, MD, chief scientific advisor for MJFF and CEO of The Parkinson’s Institute. “The Foundation can accelerate the pace of discovery by bridging the gap that exists to move targets from ‘identified’ to ‘validated.’” 

The target validation initiative will support the applied science (i.e., molecular screening, testing in animal models) required to legitimize various drug targets identified by the academic community. Once the drug targets are screened and validated industry is more likely to search their vast compound libraries to find a therapeutic "match."  

“The Foundation is taking the first step in our plan to draw industry attention to this disease and encourage companies to invest more R&D dollars for new Parkinson’s therapies,” said Deborah W. Brooks, executive director for the Foundation. Ms. Brooks noted that only a select number of companies have a strong focus on Parkinson’s disease and those that are interested face steadily growing drug development costs. As a result, companies are forced to prioritize research and development resources, and funding for new Parkinson’s treatments is often limited or even cut.

The program seeks investigator-initiated applications to validate therapeutic targets to address aspects of Parkinson’s disease, including underlying motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, dyskinesias associated with treatment and neuroprotective strategies focused on preventing neuronal death.

Letters of intent are due by January 17, 2005.  Funding is anticipated by June 2005.

To date, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research has funded more than $46 million in research aimed at finding a cure for the disease, either directly or through partnerships.

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