Researchers Secure Large Grant to Spur Treatments for Parkinson's Disease

Grant will help fund Parkinson's brain bank and act as economic stimulus

Sep 23, 2011, 08:12 ET from Banner Sun Health Research Institute

SUN CITY, Ariz., Sept 23, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) announced this week an $8 million, five-year grant to support a "National Brain and Tissue Resource for Parkinson's Disease and Related Disorders", awarded to Banner Sun Health Research Institute (BSHRI) and Mayo Clinic Arizona. Dr. Thomas Beach, MD, PhD of BSHRI is principal investigator and heads the neuropathology operations for the project, while Dr. Charles Adler, MD, PhD of the Mayo Clinic is co-investigator and directs the clinical aspects. Both are also currently co-principal investigators of the Arizona Parkinson's Disease Consortium (APDC), which has been funded by the Arizona Biomedical Research Commission, Arizona Department of Health Services and The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research (MJFF).

Parkinson's disease (PD) is currently diagnosed clinically by finding slowness of movement, resting tremor, or rigidity. However, the only way to definitively diagnose PD is by autopsy. In addition to being a disorder of movement, 30 to 75 percent of patients with PD develop dementia, which can be disabling. While there are treatments (medications and surgical procedures) that improve the motor symptoms, there are no treatments that slow or halt disease progression or prevent dementia in PD.

The NINDS award will fund studies of Arizonans with Parkinson's disease as well as normal-aging individuals, collecting information from clinical research testing on a yearly basis and then performing an autopsy to study the brain and other bodily tissue. The tissue is considered especially valuable to researchers due both to the intensive clinical studies during life as well as the high quality of the brain tissue, which is collected very quickly after death by autopsy teams that respond around the clock.

"We are grateful to the contributions of the NINDS which allow us the ability to continue our one-of-a-kind science. Our unique resource will continue to be at the forefront of major discoveries in Parkinson's disease research," said Beach.

Unfortunately, the underlying cause of PD and of dementia in PD is unknown. Under the leadership of Drs. Beach and Adler, the APDC has recently contributed to major advances in the study of Parkinson's disease and related disorders, by providing an improved disease classification system, a better understanding of the molecular basis of the disease, tissue-based diagnostic strategies, and methods to predict disease risk in the normal population.

One major goal of the funding is to find the earliest clinical markers for the onset of PD and for the onset of dementia in people with PD, so that studies of treatments to slow or stop these disorders can be started earlier. A critical feature of this ground-breaking program is the confirmation of the clinical diagnosis through autopsy. "This grant will go a long way to advance our understanding of the clinical aspects of Parkinson's disease and assist us in developing specific new treatments," added Adler.

"One of our Foundation's priorities is to better understand the onset and progression of Parkinson's disease," said Todd Sherer, PhD, CEO of MJFF. "The robust nature of APDC's clinical data provides great potential for doing that, which could speed progress toward new therapies for PD."

Sherer noted MJFF has funded APDC since 2007 and the Foundation's support of the Consortium was instrumental in providing the basis for the NINDS award.

Both brain tissue and related clinical data will be shared with fifty or more different research organizations throughout the US and world every year, thereby helping to accelerate the rate of discoveries and innovations in PD. This grant represents a considerable economic stimulus to Arizona, providing support for the employment of more than 20 personnel as well as increased local spending on supplies and services.

About Banner Sun Health Research Institute

For 24 years, Banner Sun Health Research Institute, part of nonprofit Banner Health, has been a leader nationally and internationally in the effort to find answers to disorders of aging including Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease. The institute's Cleo Roberts Center for Clinical Research takes laboratory discoveries to clinical trials that foster hope for new treatments. Banner Health is Arizona's leading health care provider and second largest private employer. For more information, visit

About Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit worldwide leader in medical care, research and education for people from all walks of life. For more information, visit or

About The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research

As the world's largest private 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 $264 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. Now through December 31, 2012, all new and increased giving to The Michael J. Fox Foundation, as well as gifts from donors who have not given since 2009 or earlier, will be matched on a dollar-for-dollar basis with the $50-million Brin Wojcicki Challenge, launched by Sergey Brin and Anne Wojcicki.

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Brian Browne
Ph: (623) 875-6536

SOURCE Banner Sun Health Research Institute