Q&A with APDA research grant recipients
Since 1961, APDA has been a funding partner in many major scientific breakthroughs and has awarded more than $49 million in research grants to date.
APDA funds individual research grants and fellowships to scientists performing innovative Parkinson’s disease (PD) research. Grants are awarded through a competitive application process and
reviewed by APDA’s Scientific Advisory Board (SAB). The SAB is comprised of scientists with a wide array of backgrounds and expertise in all areas relevant to Parkinson’s disease research.
One of our goals is to bring the best new talent to the field of PD research and help encourage a passionate pursuit for answers. As such, after APDA awards a grant and the project is undertaken, we hope that the story does not end there. The funding of one project can lead to additional hypotheses to test and additional research funding from other funding sources such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Each step brings the PD research community closer to new treatments and eventually, a cure.
Learn how to apply for research funding
Today, we highlight three researchers who were awarded past APDA grants. We asked them about the work that was funded at the time and what has happened in their research and careers since. We hope you are inspired by their passion for their work, and encouraged by the impact APDA funding has had on their research trajectory.
Mian Cao, PhD, grant recipient in 2013:
You received a grant from APDA in 2013. Can you give us a brief summary of the results of that project and its potential implications for the PD community?
In our APDA supported project, we investigated Parkin, a protein which is mutated in some forms of familial PD. We examined the role of Parkin at the synapse, the junction between two nerve cells, and particularly its role in endocytosis at the synapse, the process by which cellular material gets internalized into the cell. We found that Parkin is abnormally increased in mice defective in endocytosis and that Parkin directly interacts with particular proteins important in endocytosis, endophilin and SJ1. Our findings suggested the potential function of Parkin in regulating endocytic trafficking at synapses. Understanding what Parkin does in the cell under normal circumstances can help us understand what goes wrong to cause PD when Parkin is mutated.
What has been the general trajectory of your research and your career since 2013?
When I received the APDA award in 2013, I was a postdoc fellow in Dr. Pietro De Camilli’s lab at Yale. After that, I advanced to become an Associate Research scientist in Dr. De Camilli’s lab. In 2019, I moved to Singapore and started my own lab at Duke-NUS Medical School as an Assistant Professor.
Did your APDA grant help shape the next steps of your research? If so, how?
This APDA project was the first one I spearheaded on my own during my postdoc training. Since then, I continued to focus on PD research and have had continued success in discovering the disturbances in endocytosis related to