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Toxic Species of Parkinson's Protein Named Focus of Funding Program

The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research (MJFF) is launching a new funding program to promote collaborative analysis of subtypes of the protein alpha-synuclein. 

Aggregating in the cells of all people with Parkinson's disease (PD), alpha-synuclein is a major target for drug development. To advance those efforts, scientists must analyze different species of this protein -- resulting from splicing or post-translational modifications -- to name those implicated in the pathological accumulation and create therapeutics with greater sensitivity and specificity. Such knowledge could also serve validation of a Parkinson's biomarker, a tool that tracks the disease process allowing for earlier diagnosis and faster testing of interventions.

"Alpha-synuclein is our most promising target for a drug that could stop or prevent Parkinson's," said Todd Sherer, PhD, CEO of MJFF. "Understanding what species of this protein are involved in the disease would accelerate development of a disease-modifying therapy, the greatest unmet need of the five million people worldwide living with PD."

Pre-proposals are due June 16, 2014. MJFF will hold an informational conference call to discuss goals of the program and answer questions on May 21, 2014 at 12 p.m. ET. Email for call-in details.

MJFF previously has funded individual academic and industry scientists to characterize and quantify alpha-synuclein species in clinical samples. This initiative expands that effort to encourage multi-institutional teams to collaboratively develop and execute milestone-driven plans for addressing the critical challenges of identifying, verifying and cross-validating alpha-synuclein species in human Parkinson's disease samples:

  • from the central nervous system, including cerebrospinal fluid and brain tissues and/or
  • from peripheral tissues -- including colon, retina, salivary glands, blood, plasma, saliva, etc. -- and other tissues/biospecimens.

Previous studies have measured total alpha-synuclein levels in these areas. The findings of these teams could provide more detailed understanding of heightened protein load in Parkinson's disease.

The latest in the LEAPS (Linked Efforts to Accelerate Parkinson's Solutions) MJFF model, Alpha-synuclein Pathology LEAPS 2014 will grant up to $750,000 to each project to support up to a two-year research plan.

The Foundation has also streamlined access to data and biosamples from participating clinical Parkinson's studies for use in projects like these and in non-MJFF funded research. Learn more.

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