A Degenerative Disease Shaping People’s Lives

Thousands of Americans suffer from Parkinsons’ Disease every year, and research dollars are critical to helping those suffering from the degenerative illness. According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, nearly one million people in the U.S will be living with Parkinson’s by the year 2020. Some other staggering statistics: 60,000 people are diagnosed with PD every year, and over 10 million people are living with the disease worldwide. 

On Monday, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research announced the Ken Griffin Alpha-synuclein Imaging Competition, a ten million dollar project which will develop a groundbreaking new tool: an imaging tracer that will key protein alpha-synuclein in the living brain, this tool would be revolutionary in early detection and treatment of Parkinson’s.   

The program, made possible in part by a $7.5 million leadership gift from Ken Griffin, who is the CEO of global investment firm Citadel, as he has a personal connection to the disease itself. Griffin’s father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s several years ago, and he hopes that a tool such as this will advance significant scientific breakthroughs for everyone impacted by Parkinson’s. Speaking to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, Griffin shares his vision: “The Michael J. Fox Foundation has led the charge in advancing ground-breaking research in this field over the past twenty years, I hope this partnership with the Foundation will bring us closer to a cure for the millions of people living with Parkinson’s disease.

The reason that a tool like this would be so significant is that nearly all Parkinson’s patient’s brains contain clumps of the alpha-synuclein, regardless of symptoms and disease progression, but that discovery is currently only available in post-mortem scans. According to MJFF Director of Research Programs, Jamie Eberling Ph.D.: A similar tool to visualize the protein beta-amyloid has been pivotal in Alzheimer’s research over the past several years,”

The program is structured to motivate independent research teams and will award funding to as many as three research teams in the amount of $8.5 million, with the team making the most progress in under two years being granted the addition $1.5 to continue the research and bring this life-changing tool to fruition. 

The Ken Griffin Alpha-synuclein Imaging Competition is accepting applications as of now, with the deadline for application being January 2020. Interested scientific teams are invited to apply through the Michael J Fox Foundation. There is a number of organizations granting funding for scientific research, many of which are specific to revolutionary research that could change the trajectory of an illness. To browse the many available grants for research you can check out GrantWatch.

Authored by Lianne Hikind

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