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Michael J. Fox Foundation Grants $7.7M to Parkinson's Research Projects through Biannual Funding Round

  • Grants awarded through four spring 2018 funding programs to advance top Parkinson's research priorities
  • Funding will support projects at academic centers and biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies across 12 countries

NEW YORK (June 27, 2018) -- The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research (MJFF) announces awards totaling $7.7M to 39 research projects through its biannual open funding round. Selected studies propose innovative approaches -- such as retinal scanning, natural killer cells, and profiling of pesticide exposure -- to advance understanding, measurement and treatment of Parkinson's disease, the second most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer's.

"Our latest funding round builds on The Michael J. Fox Foundation's longstanding tradition of supporting novel research poised for scientific breakthroughs that move the field toward patients' greatest unmet need -- therapies to prevent, slow or stop Parkinson's progression -- and better lives for those living with the disease today," said MJFF CEO Todd Sherer, PhD.

In late summer 2017, the Foundation began accepting applications to four funding programs that prioritized research aims most critical for progress toward patient-relevant learnings and therapies. The Target Advancement and Therapeutic Pipeline Programs (the Edmond J. Safra Core Programs for PD Research) support work to uncover biological processes underpinning Parkinson's and evaluate new treatments, respectively. The Improved Biomarkers and Clinical Outcome Measures Program and a Mitochondrial Biomarkers Program fund studies toward tests to predict disease onset and progression, especially in mitochondrial pathways, increasingly linked to Parkinson's disease.

MJFF staff and more than 80 external advisors reviewed over 200 funding proposals. Selected projects -- 19 from U.S. research teams and 20 from scientists across 11 other countries -- cover a variety of topics. A number of the studies are growing the Foundation's strategic roadmaps around priority targets such as alpha-synuclein, LRRK2 and GBA to better understand their role in disease and develop therapies to prevent or offset their dysfunction. In addition, this crop of research projects includes many unique approaches to better understand and treat Parkinson's disease (PD).

  • Eyeing up Parkinson's -- Non-invasive measures of PD would allow for more widespread screening, earlier diagnosis and better disease tracking. Californian biotech Amydis Inc. is developing a technique to measure the Parkinson's protein alpha-synuclein in retinal tissue with an ophthalmic test.
  • Testing an asthma drug and cancer approach to stop Parkinson's -- Recent findings showed people who took an asthma drug had lower risk of Parkinson's disease. Following up on those results, scientists from Michigan State University are studying effects of an asthma drug, clenbuterol, in a Parkinson's pre-clinical model.

Two other projects are pursuing therapeutic routes that are gaining traction in cancer research. A study from Fundacion Ciencia and Vida in Chile is exploring if certain types of immune cells (CAR T cells) can target the pathological Parkinson's protein alpha-synuclein and protect brain cells. University of Georgia scientists are investigating natural killer cells, a type of white blood cell, for the same purpose.

  • Predicting dementia and app-based speech therapy -- While scientists search for a cure, many symptoms remain difficult to understand and to treat. Researchers at the Hertie Institute for Clinical Brain Research in Germany are looking at a functional measure (activities of daily living) to investigate its utility as a predictor of PD dementia development. Radboud University scientists in the Netherlands will assess an at-home speech therapy program using a mobile app and video conferencing with a therapist. Given Parkinson's affects mobility and many people live far from specialist care, telehealth approaches are of great interest to this community.
  • Profiling biological change with pesticide exposure -- Pesticide exposure is linked to increased Parkinson's risk, but many questions remain on the biological mechanisms that lead to disease. University of California, San Francisco scientists are assessing mitochondrial DNA damage with pesticide exposure to better understand and measure the impact of this environmental factor.

The largest non-profit funder of Parkinson's research, MJFF invested nearly $100 million in research in 2017. Foundation initiatives and staff-driven grants complement funding directed through formal funding programs. MJFF staff and advisors are currently evaluating proposals for fall 2018 funding, and the Foundation will begin taking applications for the spring 2019 funding round later this summer. Visit for more information on our grant programs.

Review a full list of MJFF-funded projects at


About The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research
As the world's largest nonprofit funder of Parkinson's research, The Michael J. Fox Foundation is dedicated to accelerating a cure for Parkinson's disease and improved therapies for those living with the condition today. The Foundation pursues its goals through an aggressively funded, highly targeted research program coupled with active global engagement of scientists, Parkinson's patients, business leaders, clinical trial participants, donors and volunteers. In addition to funding more than $800 million in research to date, the Foundation has fundamentally altered the trajectory of progress toward a cure. Operating at the hub of worldwide Parkinson's research, the Foundation forges groundbreaking collaborations with industry leaders, academic scientists and government research funders; increases the flow of participants into Parkinson's disease clinical trials with its online tool, Fox Trial Finder; promotes Parkinson's awareness through high-profile advocacy, events and outreach; and coordinates the grassroots involvement of thousands of Team Fox members around the world.

For more information, visit

Media Contact:
Christopher Rucas
212-509-0995 ext. 294

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