Parkinson's Groups Team Up to Award Over $4 Million Through Community Fast Track Program

Feb 03, 2004, 00:00 ET from The Michael J. Fox Foundation

    NEW YORK, Feb. 3 /PRNewswire/ -- Eight national and local Parkinson's
 disease groups teamed together to award approximately $4 million in research
 grants through the new Community Fast Track research initiative, led by The
 Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research (MJFF). The program
 officially named 18 projects which it will fund over two years through the
 investigator-initiated program, designed to stimulate novel, innovative and
 high-impact approaches to the field of Parkinson's research.
     Grant recipients were chosen from a large pool of international applicants
 assessed on the quality of novel science proposed as well as potential to
 increase understanding of Parkinson's and eventually translate findings into
 patient treatments. Among this year's awardees, three researchers will be
 receiving funding specifically to investigate Parkinson's disease for the
 first time. These three grants represent an early success for the program,
 which aims to attract new scientists from other research fields to study PD.
     "Community Fast Track offers a channel through which Parkinson's groups
 can contribute to an extremely selective peer-review award process," explained
 Deborah W. Brooks, executive director. "This collaboration is distinguished
 not only by the merit of each individual application funded but also by the
 power of the Parkinson's community as a whole to draw new researchers into the
 field and cultivate them for long-term development."
     Janusz B. Suszkiew, PhD, one of the portfolio's grant recipients receiving
 funding for the first time in the field of Parkinson's disease, will study the
 effect of nicotine on inflammatory agents within the brain. Inflammation of
 brain tissue is widely believed to play an important role in the degeneration
 of dopamine cells leading to Parkinson's disease. He theorizes that nicotine
 could have long-term neuroprotective effects by acting to suppress
 inflammation in the brain and provide the basis for development of new drug
 treatments for PD patients.
     Another grantee, Leo J. Pallanck, PhD, hopes to uncover new therapeutic
 approaches to treat PD through genetic studies of the disease. He will
 investigate the genetic factors underlying the toxicity of alpha-synuclein, a
 protein identified as a primary factor in Parkinson's. His research will
 contribute to the explanation of how alpha-synuclein kills dopamine neurons in
 the human brain, which may ultimately advance development of new Parkinson's
     "Many of the projects we have chosen are innovative because they ask new
 questions," stated Robert E. Burke, MD, Director of Laboratory Research in
 Parkinson's Disease and Related Disorders at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical
 Center and member of the scientific advisory boards of MJFF and the
 Parkinson's Disease Foundation. "However, this portfolio includes grants which
 are equally exciting and potentially groundbreaking because they offer a new
 perspective to standard questions and approach them from different angles."
     Kimberly Bjugstad, PhD, will revisit the issue of neural tissue
 transplants for Parkinson's disease patients, which despite high expectations
 from the scientific community have not yielded successful therapeutic results
 in PD patients. Using rat models of Parkinson's disease, Dr. Bjugstad will try
 to rebuild the nigrostratial pathway, the neurociruitry lost in PD patients.
 She anticipates that a clearer understanding of the reconstruction of this
 pathway, and development of new grafting techniques, will shed light on why
 transplants have failed to date.
     In addition to The Michael J. Fox Foundation, contributors to the program
 include: the Parkinson's Disease Foundation, National Parkinson Foundation,
 The Parkinson Alliance and the Parkinson's Unity Walk, the Parkinson
 Association of the Sacramento Region, the Parkinson Foundation of the
 Heartland, and Lawrence County Parkinson's Association. For a full list of
 grants, visit
     To date, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research has funded
 nearly $35 million in research, either directly or through partnerships and
 anticipates funding approximately $10 - $15 million more by spring of 2004.
 For more information on The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's
 Research, visit

SOURCE The Michael J. Fox Foundation