NEW YORK, June 13, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) today announced a $2 million prize for development of a PET tracer to visualize the protein alpha-synuclein, the priority therapeutic target and biomarker candidate of Parkinson's disease research. The prize aims to motivate the field toward this vital research tool, which would allow for earlier and more precise diagnosis, progression tracking, and more efficient and effective intervention testing.
"The ability to image alpha-synuclein in the brain would be a game-changer for Parkinson's translational research and would rapidly accelerate testing of therapies to slow or stop disease progression," said Jamie Eberling, PhD, MJFF director of research programs, who announced the prize today at the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI) annual meeting.
Academic and industry researchers, MJFF funded or not, are eligible to apply for the prize. Contestants must provide pre-clinical and clinical data showing selectivity and viability of their alpha-synuclein radiotracer. Importantly, contestants must also agree to make their radiotracer available for use by the Foundation and MJFF awardees through a nonexclusive license or other MJFF-approved mechanism. There is no deadline for submission; the prize will go to the first team that shows compelling evidence. Learn more about the program at https://www.michaeljfox.org/research/imaging-prize.html.
Imaging Tool Would Accelerate Disease-modification Trials
Alpha-synuclein accumulates in the brains of people with Parkinson's disease, and researchers believe that aggregation is the cause of cell degeneration and death responsible for Parkinson's symptoms and progression. Five therapies that aim to prevent or degrade alpha-synuclein aggregates (called Lewy bodies) are currently in clinical trials with more poised to enter human testing in the next few years.
However, the lack of an objective biological measure (or biomarker) of Parkinson's slows testing of new treatments. The ability to visualize alpha-synuclein in the brain would allow scientists to confirm diagnosis earlier, and thereby intervene earlier; monitor disease progression; and determine a patient's response to treatment in clinical studies.
"As a company with a clinical program targeting alpha-synuclein, we applaud The Michael J. Fox Foundation for its leadership in the pursuit of meaningful biomarkers for Parkinson's disease," said Tara Nickerson, PhD, chief business officer at Prothena Corporation plc, a leading biotechnology company developing protein immunotherapies for diseases including Parkinson's. MJFF is partnering with Prothena to support complementary work measuring alpha-synuclein in peripheral tissues and fluids.
Prize Builds on Foundation Alpha-Synuclein Imaging Support
The Michael J. Fox Foundation has long supported the pursuit of an alpha-synuclein PET tracer — in addition to funding of alpha-synuclein therapies and projects investigating peripheral measures of this key protein. In 2011, with little activity in the field, MJFF established a public-private Alpha-synuclein Imaging Consortium to begin work toward such a tool. If the Foundation consortium is the first to build compelling evidence of a viable, selective tracer, members of the team excluding MJFF staff will be awarded the prize. The Foundation also funds a number of independent studies toward an alpha-synuclein radiotracer.
About the Michael J. Fox Foundation
As the world's largest nonprofit funder of Parkinson's research, The Michael J. Fox Foundation is dedicated to accelerating a cure for Parkinson's disease and improved therapies for those living with the condition today. The Foundation pursues its goals through an aggressively funded, highly targeted research program coupled with active global engagement of scientists, Parkinson's patients, business leaders, clinical trial participants, donors and volunteers. In addition to funding more than $600 million in research to date, the Foundation has fundamentally altered the trajectory of progress toward a cure. Operating at the hub of worldwide Parkinson's research, the Foundation forges groundbreaking collaborations with industry leaders, academic scientists and government research funders; increases the flow of participants into Parkinson's disease clinical trials with its online tool, Fox Trial Finder; promotes Parkinson's awareness through high-profile advocacy, events and outreach; and coordinates the grassroots involvement of thousands of Team Fox members around the world. For more information, visit us on the Web, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
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SOURCE The Michael J. Fox Foundation