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Two Parkinson’s Organizations Issue a Total of $5.9M in Research Grants

research grants

The Parkinson’s Foundation and the American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA) have announced a combined $5.9 million in research grants.

For its part, the Foundation is investing $4.2 million in 46 grants to advance promising Parkinson’s disease investigations into new therapies and how the disease works. It also is awarding $8 million to four newly designated Parkinson’s Foundation Research Centers to design and launch studies over the next four years.

“The Parkinson’s Foundation is committed to moving the needle forward in new treatments, medications and better understanding symptoms and disease progression,” John Lehr, the Foundation’s president and CEO, said in a press release. “These research grants are a critical component in our mission to make life better for people with Parkinson’s by improving care and advancing research towards a cure,” he said.

Ranging in length from several months to three years, the awards will go to clinicians and postdoctoral researchers, as well as established scientists. In addition, this grant cycle adds the Melvin Yahr Early Career Award in Movement Disorders Research, created to support post-residency neurologists. The two-year $50,000 grant will support study into brain inflammation in Parkinson’s patients.

“This award is critical for my early independent career development and will help me establish a research program of my own,” said Yulan Xiong, assistant professor at Kansas State University and Stanley Fahn Junior Faculty Award recipient. “The support from the Parkinson’s Foundation will help us better understand a critical PD-related gene. We expect this study will lead to new discoveries in Parkinson’s disease.”

The $8 million in institutional grants — $2 million for each center — will go to Columbia University Irving Medical Center, the University of Florida in collaboration with Emory University, the University of Michigan in collaboration with the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, and Yale School of Medicine. These recipients were chosen based on criteria such as research novelty and the ability to address unmet needs in Parkinson’s research.

More information about Parkinson’s Foundation research grants is available here.

At the American Parkinson Disease Association, researchers have been granted $1.7 million for study programs including T-cells and their disease role, genetic factors among Hispanic populations, and the prospects of telehealth psychotherapy in relieving depression.

Awardee highlights include Vikram Khurana, MD, PhD, Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, winner of the three-year George C. Cotzias Fellowship, the APDA’s most prestigious grant.  He will seek to learn how alpha-synuclein mutation or over-expression affects mRNA regulation in Parkinson’s, which could helpscientists to identify new therapeutic targets and potential gene therapies.

Livia Hecke Morais, PhD, California Institute of Technology, is a post-doctoral fellow who will study microbial brain interaction in Parkinson’s neurodegeneration to understand the relationship between gut bacteria and the disease. This ultimately may lead to the design of new therapies that target gut bacteria for treating Parkinson’s disease.

Research fellow Brian Daniels, PhD, Rutgers University in New Jersey, will investigate RIPK3, a protein associated with Alzheimer’s and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, as a driver of  inflammation in Parkinson’s disease.

Research fellow Xianjun Dong, PhD, Harvard Medical School in Boston, will explore the possibility of a novel link between genetic susceptibility and Parkinson’s disease.

“We are excited for these researchers to dig deep into their work, and have hope for meaningful outcomes that can make a difference for people living with PD,” the APDA announcement stated.

A list of awardees and descriptions of research projects is available here.

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APDA Meets to Discuss Grants, Diversity in Parkinson’s Research, Support, and Care

APDA Grant Research

The American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA) recently hosted two groups of experts who assessed scientific projects vying for funding, and addressed diversity issues in Parkinson’s disease research and care.

The organization met with its scientific advisory board (SAB) to decide which grant projects it will fund for the 2019-2020 academic year. Grants are based on overall significance and field impact, appropriateness of the project’s chief investigator and scientific environment, and feasibility of the project’s proposed budget and end date. Funding decisions will be announced in August.

The APDA also hosted its first-ever Diversity in Parkinson’s Research Conference, which focused on needs surrounding the disease in diverse and under-served communities. Attendees included researchers investigating Parkinson’s in ethnic and minority populations, and clinicians who treat such patients.

Panel discussions included an overview of APDA diversity initiatives, research about biomarkers in diverse populations, disparities in Parkinson’s clinical trial enrollment, and what the field of hypertension can teach Parkinson’s investigators about access to diverse communities.

Currently, most Parkinson’s research focuses on relatively older white men, the APDA said. The organization wants to expand investigations to include more patients of varying ages, genders, races and ethnicities. It also wants more access among these groups for care, programs and services.

”APDA’s mission is to help everyone impacted by Parkinson’s disease live life to the fullest, and we mean everyone,” Leslie A. Chambers, APDA president and CEO, said in a press release.

The organization plans to establish an annual grant to support research focused on closing diversity gaps. For now, it offers an annual $50,000 post-doctoral fellowship, and multiple $75,000 research grants. The three-year $300,000 George C. Cotzias Fellowship supports early-career physician-scientists. In addition, the APDA awards its Centers for Advanced Research $100,000 each year to support PD investigations. (Visit this site for more information on APDA-funded research.)

”It’s so exciting to see the fascinating ideas outlined in the grant submissions,” said Rebecca Gilbert, MD, PhD, APDA vice president and chief scientific officer, of the current crop of proposals. “Proposed research projects included everything from ways of detecting a diagnosis of PD in the blood, to exploring ways that telemedicine can improve the lives of patients with PD. The SAB certainly had their work cut out for them and made some tough choices,” she said.

In addition to deciding who gets new grants, the SAB receives updates during annual meetings about previously funded research. During the May 16 meeting, for example, members were apprised of the latest research at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where scientists are focused on advances in the role of brain inflammation in Parkinson’s development and progression. The SAB also heard from Washington University School of Medicine researchers studying imaging biomarkers for Parkinson’s.

David Standaert, a leading Parkinson’s researcher at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, also is the SAB’s chairman. He called the Diversity in Research Conference a “fantastic” first step toward finding answers.

”Together, I think we can do great things to make both our research and services more inclusive and accessible,” he said.

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APDA Awards More Than $1.7 Million to Parkinson’s Disease Researchers

APDA grants

Hoping to lure new researchers to the Parkinson’s disease field and to support others’ new and innovative ideas, the American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA) has awarded more than $1.7 million in fellowships, research grants, and funding for APDA Centers for Advanced Research.

 The awards include a highly competitive George C. Cotzias Fellowship, two post-doctoral fellowships, 11 research grants, and eight APDA Centers for Advanced Research. The centers support front-line research into the cause, treatment, and eventual cure of Parkinson’s, according to a press release.

Applications are reviewed annually by the APDA’s Scientific Advisory Board (SAB). During that meeting, board members also decide the kind of research they want to invest in that year.

Among other things, the association’s support this year will give insight into the disease’s new biomarkers, and examine how and why Parkinson’s affects genders and some ethnic groups differently, said Rebecca Gilbert, MD, PhD, APDA’s vice president and chief scientific officer.

“APDA is funding an exciting array of projects this year,” she said.

In the past, research projects have produced important pilot data, according to the release, resulting in lucrative research grants from the National Institutes of Health and other funding entities.

“It is vital to accelerate research and support translational ideas that can lead to new treatments for those people living with [Parkinson’s disease],” said David G. Standaert, MD, PhD, John N. Whitaker professor and chair of neurology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham‘s School of Medicine, and SAB chairman. “APDA’s SAB is focused on investing in the best science to support that important mission.”

This year’s George C. Cotzias Fellowship went to emerging physician-scientist Aasef Shaikh, PhD, of the Cleveland VA Medical Center and Case Western Reserve University. The three-year award is designed to fund a long-term Parkinson’s project.

Shaikh’s project is aimed at learning how Parkinson’s affects the part of the brain that maintains gait and balance.

Learn more about the awardees and browse all APDA-funded research here. Researchers and physicians interested in applying for APDA funding can visit here for 2019-2020 opportunities.

APDA’s Centers for Advanced Research fund expansive Parkinson’s research programs. These programs include novice researchers, fellowship and early-stage discovery programs, and advanced clinical translation. Through a rigorous application process, two new centers were chosen this year.

 “The work being done as a result of the grants in this new funding cycle will have an incredible impact on the world of [Parkinson’s disease],” said Leslie A. Chambers, APDA’s president and CEO.

In its 57-year history, APDA has raised more than $177 million to provide patient services, increase public awareness of Parkinson’s, support its research, and ultimately end the disease.

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Source: Parkinson's News Today