Michael J. Fox Foundation: Grants for Brain Research & Treatment

OVERVIEW: The Michael J. Fox Foundation awards grants to scientists and researchers that are working in translational and clinical projects to keep the Parkinson’s drug development pipeline flowing, and to those that are conducting innovative and potentially high-risk/high reward work.

IP TAKE: It may just be a one-year anomaly, but MJFF has funded far fewer grants recently than it has in previous years. If this pattern holds, potential grantees can expect an increasingly competitive playing field for MJFF funding dollars. 

PROFILE: Founded in 1998 after actor Michael J. Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, the Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) uses words like urgent, aggressive, accelerating, and tirelessly on its website. It’s proactive, and bankrolled by a Google co-founder, among others, and it’s making progress toward a cure.

The Michael J. Fox Foundation always seems to have a lot of irons in the fire. It’s been reaching out and making connections all through the world of philanthropy and research, both on this side of the border and in Canada, where Fox grew up. And while it’s primarily been an advocacy organization, as so many of these celebrity-led organizations are, there’s no dismissing the real role the foundation continues to have in pioneering research.

The foundation states its research grantmaking goal is to “accelerate the best ideas in Parkinson’s disease research toward clinical testing and practical relevance for patients.” In this regard, it places a strong emphasis on finding both clinical and translational research projects in the two key areas of therapeutic approaches and the development of promising tools and resources to help quicken the pace of Parkinson’s treatments.

MJFF grants are awarded out of its Target Advancement, Therapeutic Pipeline and Outcome Measures programs. The Target Advancement program promotes the study of research models and biological mechanisms relating to Parkinson's. According to the MJFF website, "these awards are well-suited to projects where hypothetical or experimental rationale for a target is compelling but limited, and study results can make the case for continuing (or discontinuing) a line of research."

The Therapeutic Pipeline program supports the development of therapies that can either modify disease or address symptoms. It is is" open to industry and academic investigators proposing novel approaches or repositioning approved or clinically safe therapies from non-PD indications."

The Improved Biomarkers and Clinical Outcome Measures Program "seeks to support research that will develop biomarker tools and clinical outcome measures to assist in target validation for therapeutic development." This can include Imaging Studies, Clinical/Non-Invasive Physiological Studies, Biochemical Assays and Outcome Measures, and Data Science.

Grantseekers can explore the foundation's funded grants page to get an idea of the types of projects and programs it's interested in.  All of these programs accept pre-proposals throughout the year, from which the foundation makes invitations to submit full proposals.


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