NEW YORK, NY— The Michael J. Fox Foundation announced a lead gift of $2.5 million from philanthropist Lily Safra to support the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI). Mrs. Safra’s commitment will help galvanize the search for a biomarker of Parkinson’s disease progression.
PPMI is a landmark clinical study that aims to develop the toolbox needed to unlock the mysteries of Parkinson’s progression to help better treat, diagnose and one day cure the disease. The study will use state of the art neuroimaging, novel testing of biologic samples and comprehensive behavioral assessments to identify progression markers of Parkinson’s disease. These biomarkers would transform researchers’ ability to develop breakthrough therapies for PD that could slow or stop the disease from continually worsening over time, at present a critical unmet need for Parkinson patients.
Lily Safra, widow of the late banker and humanitarian Edmond J. Safra, is a longtime supporter and member of the Board of The Michael J. Fox Foundation. Since her husband’s passing, she has served as Chairman of The Edmond J. Safra Foundation, one of the Michael J. Fox Foundation’s principal partners since its establishment.
“My husband had a visionary belief in the power of human ingenuity to conquer disease,” said Mrs. Safra. “During his lifetime he was an open-handed supporter of medical research and patient care around the world. In his memory, it is my privilege to sponsor PPMI, a characteristically strategic effort by the Michael J. Fox Foundation to fill gaps in medical research in order to speed improved treatments and a cure for Parkinson’s disease.”
PPMI is being carried out at 18 sites in the United States and Europe and will require 400 newly diagnosed Parkinson’s patients (not yet taking PD medication) and 200 controls whose age and gender match that of patients in the study. The first study volunteers, including patients and controls, already have been enrolled at the Institute for Neurodegenerative Disorders in New Haven, Connecticut, where PPMI’s principal investigator, Kenneth J. Marek, MD, is President and Senior Scientist.
The study is expected to cost approximately $40 million over five years, and will be made possible through a consortium of funding partners spearheaded by The Michael J. Fox Foundation. The Foundation has committed about $7 million in funding to PPMI to date.
Both the Edmond J. Safra Foundation and Mrs. Safra personally have been generous and steadfast supporters of The Michael J. Fox Foundation’s mission to speed progress toward transformative treatments — and ultimately a cure — for Parkinson’s disease.
“Lily has been a great personal friend to me, and our Foundation is tremendously grateful for her unparalleled commitment to our mission,” said Michael J. Fox. “She is a vital ally to us in our efforts to create a tipping point in the development of new treatments and a cure for PD. Her generosity not only speaks for itself but serves as a lasting tribute to her beloved husband, Edmond.”
Edmond J. Safra created the foundation that shares his name in 1999. Considered by many to have been among the greatest bankers of his generation, Mr. Safra also was an extraordinary philanthropist. He contributed to countless humanitarian, religious, educational and cultural causes the world over. He was deeply committed to the search for a cure for neurodegenerative diseases, in particular Parkinson’s disease, and made the support of medical research in this field one of the key objectives of The Edmond J. Safra Foundation.