The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research (MJFF) announced that with the help of the Parkinson's community, it has completed and surpassed the $50-million Brin Wojcicki Challenge. Longtime Foundation supporters Sergey Brin and Anne Wojcicki have matched more than $53 million in capacity-building gifts received by MJFF from January 1, 2011, to December 31, 2012.
Mr. Brin and Ms. Wojcicki, the Foundation's largest donors for several years running, spearheaded the Challenge to spur donors at every level to give, renew or increase giving to MJFF. Because of the enthusiasm and generosity of the Foundation's community of donors, Challenge-eligible giving exceeded the original goal by about $3 million — additional dollars that Mr. Brin and Ms. Wojcicki have agreed to match.
"Anne and Sergey's friendship to our Foundation and to Parkinson's patients worldwide is awe-inspiring," said Michael J. Fox. "As if a $50-million match weren't tremendous in its own right, they've gone above and beyond their initial commitment to match the $3 million extra ponied up by our incredible supporters. There's no doubt the Challenge has made our community stronger and more vibrant in its passionate pursuit of a cure."
Over the course of two years, the Challenge brought thousands of new contributors to MJFF. It also helped the Foundation reactivate relationships with thousands of supporters who had given prior to 2010, and motivated over 4,000 to stretch their giving in order to double the impact of their generosity.
Mr. Brin is co-founder of Google. Ms. Wojcicki is co-founder of 23andMe, a personal genetics company. With the completion of the Challenge, their personal giving to MJFF totals more than $157.5 million since 2004.
An opportune moment and an urgent need
Mr. Brin and Ms. Wojcicki chose an opportune moment in Parkinson's drug development to launch the Challenge. MJFF and most of its research partners believe that the pipeline of new Parkinson's treatments is as robust as it has been in decades, if not ever. Understanding of the factors underlying disease onset and progression is increasing, and insights from genetics are opening new avenues for therapeutic development. In the midst of this promising activity, government and commercial sources of research funding continue to dry up. Especially as more research approaches the clinic, where costs rise steeply, there has never been a more important time or a greater need for the Parkinson's community to work together to ensure funding sufficient to keep the most promising projects moving forward.
At the outset of 2013, MJFF remains focused on:
- The search for a disease-modifying treatment. This spring, results are expected from Ceregene, Inc.'s most recent MJFF-supported Phase 2 clinical trial of neurturin, a trophic factor that could help restore dopamine neurons in the Parkinson's brain. As Parkinson's genetics continues to revolutionize the field, MJFF is growing its initiatives focused on alpha-synuclein and LRRK2, the two most important genetic targets in PD. And in coming months the Foundation's landmark biomarker study, Parkinson's Progression Markers Initiative (ppmi-info.org), will complete collection of baseline data (all of which has been made available to the research community at large in real time) and launch a new arm to study people at increased risk for the disease.
- Looking beyond the dopamine system. Today researchers understand that Parkinson's involves a constellation of symptoms that go well beyond dopamine signaling. MJFF-enabled partnerships with Bristol Myers Squibb, Sanofi, Addex and other major pharmaceutical firms are pushing new classes of symptomatic therapies, as well as treatments for cognition and dyskinesia, closer than ever to the clinic.
- Increasing the flow of willing volunteers for clinical research through Fox Trial Finder. Fox Trial Finder (foxtrialfinder.org) has registered more than 14,000 patient and control volunteers who want to be matched to the best trials for them. In 2013 the site comes online in five more European countries and aims to attain 30,000 registered volunteers by year-end.
"Our Foundation's promise to Parkinson's patients is to work urgently to identify and fund the projects closest or most critical to practical therapeutic relevance," said Todd Sherer, PhD, CEO of MJFF. "We're grateful to our Challenge participants and our entire community of supporters for helping us continue to fulfill that promise."