Parkinson's Disease Foundation Awards $1.3 Million in Research Grants to Help Solve, Treat and End Parkinson's Disease

More Than 30 Scientific Projects Chosen for Potential to Improve the Lives and Futures of People Touched by Parkinson's

Jul 24, 2014, 13:15 ET from Parkinson's Disease Foundation

NEW YORK, July 24, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Parkinson's Disease Foundation® (PDF®) is pleased to announce $1.3 million in funding for more than 30 investigator-initiated research projects to help solve, treat and end Parkinson's disease.  Chosen through a competitive application process, the grants reflect PDF's continued commitment to improving the lives and futures of people touched by Parkinson's disease.  Browse research grants below or by visiting   

"The Parkinson's Disease Foundation, through this latest selection of research grants, renews its most important promise to the community: to understand and help find the cure for Parkinson's disease, and for as long as that search continues, to ensure that those families and individuals who live with Parkinson's disease are able to achieve and maintain the best quality of life," noted PDF President Robin Anthony Elliott.

The research projects are chosen by PDF's Scientific Advisory Board led by Acting Chair Un Jung Kang, M.D., and PDF Scientific Director Stanley Fahn, M.D., and including several scientific experts and PDF-trained patient advocates.  The projects are funded through PDF's International Research Grants Program, which supports innovative ideas of early-career scientists and its Fellowships and Career Development program, which supports training for future leaders in Parkinson's research and care.

Malú G. Tansey, Ph.D., of Emory University School of Medicine, and Yoland Smith, Ph.D., of Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory, are recipients of a PDF-funded International Research Grant, which they are using to study the role of inflammation in Parkinson's disease, with the goal of advancing treatments.  Brain scans show that people with Parkinson's disease have more inflammation in their brains than is normal, and population studies suggest that drugs to treat inflammation may lower Parkinson's disease risk.  Dr. Tansey's research group has already shown the potential of an anti-inflammatory drug called XPro1595 to penetrate into the brain to lessen and slow brain cell degeneration in rodents.  The PDF-funded study will test the drug in monkeys exposed to a toxin called MPTP.  If XPro1595 is effective in reducing or delaying Parkinson's disease-like symptoms, it will be an important step in moving this drug toward clinical trials in humans.

"Scientists in today's competitive funding environment face the possibility that our most promising ideas may go unexplored.  This is what makes funding from PDF so crucial," noted Dr. Tansey.  "PDF funding ensures that no stone – such as the potentially promising compound we have identified – goes unturned in the search for more effective treatments for Parkinson's disease."

Damien J. Ellens, M.D., a recipient of a PDF Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, working with mentor Daniel K. Leventhal, M.D., Ph.D., at the University of Michigan, is using a new technique called optogenetics to better understand how dopamine impacts movement in Parkinson's disease.  It is well known that the chemical messenger dopamine controls the body's normal movements, and when lost, leads to movement symptoms in Parkinson's disease.  Although most drugs used to treat the movement symptoms of Parkinson's disease do so by replacing dopamine, we still do not understand exactly how these drugs work.  Dr. Ellens is focusing on a less-studied aspect of dopamine, its role in helping us to learn new movement.  He will study the dopamine neurons in rats as the rats learn a new motion.  With millisecond precision, he will observe how dopamine contributes to the ability of rats to learn the new movements versus how it allows them perform the movements.  Understanding how the distinct functions of dopamine contribute to the motor symptoms of Parkinson's disease may allow scientists to design new drugs that more effectively ease symptoms and minimize side effects.

Browse all PDF-funded investigator-driven Parkinson's disease research projects below and learn more about them by visiting  Learn more about additional Parkinson's disease research funded by PDF in 2014 by visiting

International Research Grants | $742,500

Epigenetic Dysregulation in Levodopa-induced Dyskinesia*
David Anderson, Ph.D., and Jay Schneider, Ph.D., Thomas Jefferson University

Elucidation of the Role of Cholinergic Interneurons in Levodopa-Induced Dyskinesias*
Tomas Björklund, Ph.D., Lund University, Sweden

Interaction of LRRK2 and Tau in Mediating Neurodegeneration in Mouse Models of Parkinson's Disease*
Darren Moore, Ph.D., Van Andel Research Institute

Identifying Connectivity Changes with Deep Brain Stimulation in Parkinson's Disease*
Matthias Schröeter, M.D., Ph.D., and Karsten Müller, Ph.D., Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Germany

Novel Insights into the Properties and Fate of Naturally Secreted Alpha-synuclein
Georgia Sotiropoulou, Ph.D., University of Patras, Greece

Striatal CaV1.3 Calcium Channel Silencing as a Neuroprotective Target for Levodopa-induced Dyskinesias
Kathy Steece-Collier, Ph.D., and Fredric P. Manfredsson, Ph.D., Michigan State University

Imaging Impulse Control Disorders in Parkinson's*
Antonio Strafella, M.D., Ph.D., Toronto Western Hospital, Canada

Neuroprotection by XPro1595 in a Chronic MPTP Monkey Model of Parkinson's
Malú Tansey, Ph.D., and Yoland Smith, Ph.D., Emory University

Dysfunctional Signalling Mechanism of Neurotransmission in Parkinson's Disease
Zhenyu Yue, Ph.D., Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Postdoctoral Research Fellowships | $300,000

Functional Study of the Newly Identified Autosomal Recessive Early-onset Parkinsonism-associated Mutation in Sac1 Domain of Synaptojanin1
Mian Cao, Ph.D., mentor: Pietro De Camilli, M.D., Yale University

Optogenetic Dissection of the Role of Dopamine in Fine Motor Control
Damien J. Ellens, M.D., mentor: Daniel K. Leventhal, M.D., Ph.D., University of Michigan

Functional Analysis of Dopamine-dependent Circuits Activity in Parkinson's Disease
Nan Li, Ph.D., mentor: Alan Jasanoff, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Cell-specific Functions of the Globus Pallidus in the Basal Ganglia: Distinct Implications in Normal Behavior and PD
Amelie Soumier, Ph.D., mentor: Aryn H. Gittis, Ph.D., Carnegie Mellon University

In Vivo Modulation of Alpha-synuclein Phosphorylation: Tracking Aggregates in the Living Mouse Brain
Kateri Spinelli, Ph.D., mentor: Vivek K. Unni, M.D., Ph.D., Oregon Health & Science University

A Novel Function of PINK1/Parkin Pathway in Regulating Oxidative Phosphorylation through mRNA Localization & Translational Control
Zhihao Wu, Ph.D., mentor: Bingwei Lu, Ph.D., Stanford University School of Medicine

Collaborative Fellowships | $142,500

PDF-ABF Clinician-Scientist Development Award | $52,500 (per year for three years)
(In partnership with the American Brain Foundation)
Parkin Overexpression as a Therapeutic Strategy
Amber Van Laar, M.D., mentor: J. Timothy Greenamyre, M.D., Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

PDF-PSG Mentored Clinical Research Award | $50,000
(In partnership with the Parkinson Study Group)
A Functional MRI Study of Dopamine's Effects on the Stability & Flexibility of Working Memory in Parkinson's
Robert White III, M.D., Ph.D., mentors: Jill Ostrem, M.D., and Mark D'Esposito, M.D., University of California, San Francisco

PDF-HHMI Medical Research Fellowship | $40,000
(In partnership with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute)
Noninvasive Stimulation of Functional Neural Networks for Remote Brain Modulation & Tremor Reduction in Parkinson's Disease
David Fischer, mentor: Alvaro Pascual-Leone, M.D., Ph.D., Harvard Medical School

Côté Clinical Genetics Initiative | $110,000

Generation and Characterization of Purified Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell-derived Dopaminergic Neurons to Study Monozygotic Twins Discordant for Parkinson's
Aiqun Li, Ph.D., mentor: Scott A. Noggle, Ph.D., New York Stem Cell Foundation

Molecular Basis of Substantia Nigra Dopamine Neuron Vulnerability in Parkinson's Disease
Ping-Yue Pan, Ph.D., mentor: Zhenyu Yue, Ph.D., Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Summer Student Fellowships | $48,000

Quantitative Analysis of Alpha-synuclein in Various Brain Regions of Parkinson's Disease Mouse Model
Hanan Baker, mentor: Marie-Francoise Chesselet, M.D., Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles

Clinical Subtypes of Parkinson's & Longitudinal Trend of Disease Progression
Seyed-Mohammad Fereshtehnejad, M.D., mentor: Ronald Postuma, M.D., M.Sc., McGill University, Canada

PINK1-AIF Interaction & Implications in PD Pathogenesis
Fadi Hage, mentor: David Park, Ph.D., University of Ottawa, Canada

Can Sensory Attention Focused Exercise (PD SAFEx) Improve Balance Control & Proprioception in PD?
Shannon Lefaivre, mentor: Quincy J. Almeida, Ph.D., Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada

Genetic Variation and Cognitive Impairment in People with Parkinson's from Uruguay
Andrés Lescano, M.D., mentor: Ignacio Fernandez Mata, Ph.D., University of Washington

Role of Cognition in Reversing Motor Deficits in PD
Charles Marquardt, mentor: Michael W. Jakowec, Ph.D., University of Southern California

Oscillatory Activity in the Subthalamic Nucleus in a Rodent Pharmacological Model of Parkinsonian Tremor
Samantha Podurgiel, mentor: John Salamone, Ph.D., University of Connecticut

Metabotropic Glutamate Receptor 4 Positive Allosteric Modulators Attenuate LPS-Induced Inflammation in Microglia Cells
Ranjani Ponnazhagan, mentor: David Standaert, M.D., Ph.D., University of Alabama at Birmingham

Methylene Blue as a Treatment for Motor & Cognitive Deficits in a Rodent Model of Parkinson's
Elizabeth Smith, mentor: Hongjoo Lee, Ph.D., The University of Texas at Austin

Pathogenic Interactions Between Alpha-synuclein & Trichloroethylene In Vivo
Rachel Tang, mentor: Edward A. Burton, M.D., D.Phil., University of Pittsburgh

Role of Basal Ganglia in Sensorimotor Transformation
Pouneh Vaziri, mentor: Robert Chen, M.B.B.Chir., M.Sc., Toronto Western Hospital, Canada

Impact of Medical Care Structure & Provider Availability on Outcomes in Parkinson's Disease
Jonathan Woo, mentor: Allison Willis, M.D., University of Pennsylvania

*Denotes second year of funding

About Parkinson's Disease
Parkinson's disease is a progressive neurological disorder that affects nearly one million people in the United States and seven to 10 million people worldwide.  Although promising research is being conducted, there is currently no cure for Parkinson's disease.

About PDF Research
The Parkinson's Disease Foundation® (PDF®) is committed to funding the highest caliber of science to solve, treat and end Parkinson's disease.  Since 1957, PDF has dedicated $105 million to research, which has contributed to major advances in science such as the discovery of genes linked to Parkinson's disease and development of levodopa.  As part of its funding, PDF is particularly focused on developing a strong pipeline of future leaders in research and care, and remains the largest private funder of specialized movement disorder training in the United States.  In 2014, PDF is funding three research centers, 39 scientific projects and training for nine clinical fellows, and is supporting more than 15 scientific meetings, conferences and professional development awards for students.  A full list of this year's research projects is available on the PDF website at

About the Parkinson's Disease Foundation (PDF)
The Parkinson's Disease Foundation® (PDF®) is a leading national presence in Parkinson's disease research, education and public advocacy.  We are working for the nearly one million people in the US who live with Parkinson's disease by funding promising scientific research while supporting people living with Parkinson's disease through educational programs and services.  Since its founding in 1957, PDF has dedicated over $105 million to fund the work of leading scientists throughout the world and over $44 million to support national education and advocacy programs.

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