The National Parkinson Foundation Announces Grant Funding Opportunities for Research in Parkinson's Disease

Dec 11, 2013, 09:00 ET from National Parkinson Foundation

--Three Focus Areas Based on Patient Input--

MIAMI, Dec. 11, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The National Parkinson Foundation (NPF) announced the launch of a new grant cycle today with the goal of developing the next generation of leaders in Parkinson's disease (PD) by supporting their research in areas voted as most important by the Parkinson's community.  Grant funding is available in three high-impact focus areas: cell to cell transmission studies, cognitive change in PD and database studies. The three focus areas were identified as the most important research targets by people living with PD via an online poll conducted in December.

"Many of today's leaders got their first grants from NPF.  With tightening budgets in Washington, mid-level researchers are increasingly finding it difficult to get the support they need to build careers as Parkinson's researchers.  We believe that the ideas that will change the course of Parkinson's disease may already be in development, but we are afraid that the next generation of senior faculty who will shepherd these ideas into the clinic are not getting the support they need to build their careers in research," said Peter N. Schmidt, PhD, NPF's CIO and Vice President, Research and Professional Programs.

Focus area one: How Parkinson's Spreads from Cell to Cell. In Parkinson's, cells die because they are poisoned by a toxic form of the protein alpha synuclein.  These "oligomers" spread from cell to cell almost like an infection.  If we could stop this spreading, we could stop Parkinson's disease in patients who have it and prevent Parkinson's in people at risk. However, we don't know nearly enough about how this happens. If we could understand the process, it could offer new targets for drugs that have never before been considered.  Very little funding has gone into this new area for research so far.  This was the highest rated patient priority.

Focus area two: Cognitive change in Parkinson's disease. For many patients, the most troubling aspect of Parkinson's is worrying that their thinking will change.  Their reaction time slows, they may have trouble picking the right word to say, and their ability to prioritize and sequence information can be affected.  In this second-highest rated patient priority, NPF will support further research into the biology of cognitive change and also interventions that build on these new findings to improve the lives of people with Parkinson's.

Focus area three: Database studies. Drilling through multiple sets of research data to find common threads or hidden gems of information is a cutting edge technique—what is now called big data. NPF will leverage big data techniques in Parkinson's by funding studies looking at combinations of study databases:  early and late disease, data from multiple sources or those that combine insights from the general population.  Many ideas that are changing health today came from looking back at data using these big data approaches.  Investigators will be welcome to use NPF's Parkinson's Outcomes Project as a rich and comprehensive data set in their proposals.

"Studying cell to cell transmission could lead to the answers that we need to open new therapeutic possibilities and avenues," said Michael S. Okun, MD, NPF's National Medical Director. "Instead of rescuing the sick cells, perhaps we can stop or slow them as the disease spreads into other regions."

NPF anticipates funding approximately $1-2 million over a two-year period.  As always, funding is dependent upon the quality of applications received and an assessment of their impact on the field. This grant cycle will fund programs based on scientific merit, as determined by the NPF's Clinical and Scientific Advisory Board (CSAB) in a peer-review process. The application deadline is March 3, 2014 and NPF will announce the awards on or before May 2, 2014.

In addition to this grant funding, NPF continues to fund the Parkinson's Outcomes Project; the largest clinical study of its kind that is currently tracking more than 7,000 people with Parkinson's who receive care at an NPF Center of Excellence. For more information about NPF's research initiatives, visit

About Parkinson's Disease (PD)
Affecting an estimated one million Americans and four to six million worldwide, PD is the second most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer's and is the 14th leading cause of death in the United States. It is associated with a progressive loss of motor control (e.g., shaking or tremor at rest and lack of facial expression) as well as non-motor symptoms (e.g., depression and anxiety). There is no cure for PD and 60,000 new cases are diagnosed each year in the United States alone.

About the National Parkinson Foundation (NPF)
Founded in 1957, the National Parkinson Foundation's mission is to improve the quality of care for people with Parkinson's disease through research, education and outreach. NPF has funded more than $172 million in care, research and support services. For more information about NPF, visit, or call the NPF Helpline at 1-800-4PD-INFO (473-4636).

Leilani Pearl

SOURCE National Parkinson Foundation