- The new Bachmann-Strauss Fellowship in Dystonia Research will support a next generation of dystonia researchers toward improved understanding and treatment of this movement disorder.
- An estimated 500,000 people in North America live with dystonia, and experts estimate more than 30 percent of people with Parkinson’s may experience the condition.
- Two laboratories were selected for grants to support a two-year fellowship.
NEW YORK (January 18, 2022) — The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF) announces a new training program to grow the global base of researchers studying the movement disorder dystonia. The Bachmann-Strauss Fellowship in Dystonia Research will support specialized training for a next generation of dystonia researchers elucidating the causes of and contributors to dystonia, the world’s third most common movement disorder and a symptom of Parkinson’s disease (PD). Such insights could accelerate the development of novel approaches to prevent and alleviate this condition.
Thanks to a lead gift from MJFF Board member Bonnie Strauss and her husband Tom Strauss, the Fellowship awarded grants to both the University of Lübeck in Germany and Yale University in Connecticut to support this training.
Bonnie Strauss, Founder of the Bachmann-Strauss Dystonia and Parkinson Foundation, said: “The remarkable scientists chosen as the first fellows of the Bachmann-Strauss Fellowship in Dystonia Research represent the future of research in dystonia and movement disorders, and I am exceptionally proud to be supporting this initiative, which will impact patients today and those living with the disease tomorrow. With The Michael J. Fox Foundation’s leadership, this program is set to make astonishing scientific achievements in the field of dystonia.”
“Bonnie and Tom Strauss have long shown their unwavering support and dedication to people living with dystonia and Parkinson’s, both through their personal generosity and their partnership with MJFF,” said Deborah W. Brooks, MJFF Co-Founder and CEO. “This fellowship program has the ability to benefit not only people and families living with dystonia, but also the millions living with Parkinson’s and other movement disorders. We need the brightest minds in research to help move scientific breakthroughs forward from the lab to the clinic.”
A review committee of MJFF staff and external scientific advisors selected two centers from a highly competitive group of applicants to host the inaugural Bachmann-Strauss Fellowships in Dystonia Research. It is the Foundation’s hope that this pilot program will seed interest from other trainees in this important area of study as well as connect more families living with dystonia to available resources and breed optimism on the pace of research toward cures.
The two centers selected and matched fellows; one began her fellowship in 2021, and one will start in 2022:
- 2021: Lara Mariah Lange, MD; University of Lübeck, Germany Fellowship Mentor: Christine Klein, MD
- 2022: Els Kuiper, MSc; Yale University, Connecticut Fellowship Mentor: Christian Schlieker, PhD
A Long-Standing Partnership in Dystonia Research
Dystonia — the involuntary muscle contraction that causes awkward, often painful postures — is the third most common movement disorder in the world. And some clinician-researchers estimate that more than 30 percent of people living with Parkinson’s may experience dystonia as a symptom or as a complication of treatment as the “gold standard” therapy for PD — levodopa — wears off. Yet, despite dystonia’s prevalence, with over 500,000 people living with the movement disorder in North America, it is often under-recognized and therefore undertreated.
In 2014, the Bachmann-Strauss Dystonia and Parkinson Foundation formed a collaborative research alliance with MJFF and established the Bachmann-Strauss Prize for Excellence in Dystonia Research to broaden public awareness and recognize key scientific discoveries in dystonia. The prize was awarded annually from 2015 to 2020 to a researcher who made profound contributions to dystonia research. Read more on the Prize and its recipients.
Additionally, MJFF has long supported studies and development of treatments that would ease dystonia in the Parkinson’s population and beyond. For example, deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a surgical treatment for dystonia and Parkinson’s, though the stimulation target in the brain may be different.
Since inception in 2000, MJFF has funded more than $9 million in research into improved DBS for Parkinson’s (e.g., “smart” DBS that responds to brain signals rather than stimulates continuously). Improvements in and expanded uses for DBS could also benefit people with dystonia.
About The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF)
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 $1.5 billion 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; creates a robust open- access data set and biosample library to speed scientific breakthroughs and treatment with its landmark clinical study, PPMI; 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 us at www.michaeljfox.org, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn.
The Michael J. Fox Foundation