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Researchers to Share Genetics Data Through the Edmond J. Safra Global Genetics Consortia

The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF) announced today that it has awarded approximately $1.2 million to fund five research projects through the Edmond J. Safra Global Genetics Consortia initiative.  The field of genetics research has become increasingly vital to understanding the disease as evidence accumulates that genetic susceptibility, alone or combined with other factors, may increase the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.  This program, launched in October 2003, requires participating researchers to share their findings to facilitate and improve the understanding of the genetics and epidemiology of Parkinson’s disease. 

“By revving up the power of analysis through collaborations, the Edmond J. Safra Global Genetics Consortia seeks to achieve conclusive results about the importance of specific genetic influences,” said J. William Langston, MD, chief scientific advisor to The Michael J. Fox Foundation and CEO of The Parkinson’s Institute.  “Together with our recently announced effort to create the first genetic map of Parkinson’s, this program promises to significantly advance both the depth and breadth of our understanding of the cause, treatment and prevention of the disease.”

Projects funded under this program include:

Tatiana Foroud, PhD, Indiana University (Coordinating Investigator)
Collaborative Studies of a Chromosome 5 PD Susceptibility Gene
Several large research groups in the U.S. and Europe will examine chromosome 5 to determine whether a gene on that chromosome is important in susceptibility to PD. Data from prior studies has been too small to be conclusive.

Demetrius Maraganore, MD, Mayo Clinic (Coordinating Investigator)
Collaborative Pooled Analysis on the Association of the Alpha-Synuclein Gene REP1 Variant and Parkinson’s Disease
A team of 21 investigators from 18 sites in 11 countries will compile and analyze data from 3,726 Parkinson’s disease patients and 3,449 controls to clarify the role of alpha-synuclein gene variability.

Lorene Nelson, PhD, MS, Stanford University (Coordinating Investigator)
PD Consortium:  Genetic and Environmental Factors in PD
Five investigators at five institutions will analyze how environmental exposures interact with genetic susceptibility in the development of PD.  Specifically, researchers will focus on how genetic risk of developing PD varies according to tobacco and caffeine intake.

Haydeh Payami, PhD, Genomics Institute, Albany, NY (Coordinating Investigator)
Gene-Environment Interaction in PD: Predicting the Onset, Prognosis and Response to Treatment
A team from six institutions in the U.S. and Finland will seek to identify six candidate genes and three protective environmental factors:  non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, caffeine and tobacco and the impact on age of onset, prognosis and treatment.

Clemens R. Scherzer, MD, Brigham and Women’s Hospital (Coordinating Investigator)
Gene Expression in Parkinson’s Disease
A team from two institutions will conduct a global comparison of gene expression changes in Parkinson’s disease patients as well as in animal models to identify common genes and pathways mediating neurodegeneration.

This program was funded with a lead gift and incentive match from the Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation in memory of its founder Mr. Edmond J. Safra.  Considered by many to have been among the greatest private bankers of his generation, Mr. Safra was also 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 when he established the Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation.  He shared his devotion to this cause with his wife, Mrs. Lily Safra, a member of the Board of The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and, since her husband’s passing in 1999, Chairman of the Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation. 

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