Where Have The Michael J. Fox Foundation's Grants Been Going Lately?

The Michael J. Fox Foundation is dedicated solely to Parkinson’s disease research, but grants are actually awarded in three separate funding categories. This is a high-profile, single-cause funder, but still one that’s accessible for researchers and institutions in the field.

For example, Target Validation Awards are $100,000 one-year grants, and Target Optimization Awards are $200,000, two-year grants. Within the Therapeutic Pipeline Program, MJFF will commit up to $10 million to the Edmond J. Safra Core Programs for PD Research to support multiple awards, however, there is no budget limit for these proposals. For the Improved Biomarkers and Clinical Outcome Measures program, MJFF supports multiple projects up to $4 million, but again there is no set budget limit for these proposals.

Let’s take a closer look at where MJFF grants have been going lately.

The foundation recently announced a $375,000 grant to the UC San Diego School of Medicine for research related to early diagnosis by identifying a biological component in blood. This grant was made as part of MJFF’s “improved biomarkers” program, which is a huge part of Parkinson’s research right now.

"This is the first longitudinal study of blood methylation for Parkinson's disease," said study leader Paula Desplats, Ph.D. "That's important because these changes may not only help us determine who has Parkinson's disease, but also help us monitor how a person is progressing in the disease."

MJFF also recently awarded a grant to a company called Emulate, Inc., which is using the money to develop organ-on-chip systems to determine drug candidates for Parkinson’s disease treatment. Organs-on-Chips are designed to predict human responses to drug candidates and evaluate drug safety during new drug development. 

"The greatest unmet need for patients is therapies that can impact the underlying pathology of Parkinson's disease, and Organs-on-Chips offers an innovative solution to better understand human response and open up new possibilities to better design drug candidates," said Marco Baptista, PhD, a senior associate director of MJFF research programs.

A final recent MJFF grantee I’ll mention here is Anavex Life Services Corp., which received a research grant to advance ANAVEX 2-73, a potential Parkinson’s disease drug. This money is going toward animal model testing, which will determine if it moves on to clinical testing.

“The development of disease-modifying therapies for Parkinson’s disease is the top priority of The Michael J. Fox Foundation and ANAVEX 2-73 presents a promising approach,” said Baptista. “Companies that receive funding from MJFF have scientifically compelling plans that hold obvious potential to impact our understanding of Parkinson’s and ultimately the development of improved treatments for people with the disease.”

Pre-proposal deadline is May 18, 2016, for all three core funding programs for the fall 2016 grant cycle. Nonprofits that apply will receive full proposal invitations by July 1. Researchers can download an RFA and application template on the foundation’s website and create an account through the grant application portal.

To learn more about this funder, check out IP’s full profile of the Michael J. Fox Foundation: Grants for Diseases.