Where Are Grants Going in the Fight Against Parkinson's?

 Photo:  Daisy Daisy/shutterstock

Photo:  Daisy Daisy/shutterstock

The Parkinson’s Foundation recently announced an investment of $6.2 million across 53 research grants to support the work of promising scientists in the field of Parkinson's disease (PD) in 2018. Grants will support Parkinson’s clinical trials and research centers, in addition to career development and fellowships for scientists who actively study Parkinson’s in hopes of making life better for people with the disease. Meanwhile, the Michael J. Fox Foundation recently announced up to $7.5 million in Parkinson’s disease research projects proposed by investigators, the nonprofit recently announced. Funding will be considered for projects aimed at the following four areas: exploring new biological targets for therapeutic development, identifying biomarkers to objectively measure disease progression, testing potential new treatments, and determining preventive factors.

Together, these two rounds of grants offer a window into recent philanthropic funding on Parkinson's. 

Affecting nearly 1 million Americans and 10 million worldwide, Parkinson’s disease is the second-most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s, and is the 14th-leading cause of death in the United States. It is associated with a progressive loss of motor control (e.g., shaking or tremor at rest and lack of facial expression), as well as non-motor symptoms (e.g., depression and anxiety). There is no cure for Parkinson’s, and 60,000 new cases are diagnosed each year in the United States alone.

"Our goal at the Parkinson’s Foundation is to increase funding for researchers making significant contributions to advance our understanding of Parkinson’s disease," said John L. Lehr, president and chief executive officer of the Parkinson's Foundation. “By investing in innovative research, we are making progress toward better therapies and ultimately, a cure for Parkinson’s.”

This year, the Parkinson's Foundation increased its research investment by $2.2 million, which includes funding five additional training awards and postdoctoral fellowships for movement disorders. Grants range from three months to three years in length, and fund diverse research initiatives, providing students, postdoctoral researchers and clinicians with the opportunity to test innovative ideas and to stay in the Parkinson’s research field. Parkinson's Foundation research investments are selected through a competitive application process and reviewed by its scientific advisory board, which includes scientific experts and foundation-trained patient advocates.

The role of private foundations in funding Parkinson's research is substantial. Government funding for Parkinson’s research in 2017 was $161 million, and the projected 2018 budget has a small increase. Since 1957, the Parkinson’s Foundation has invested more than $330 million in Parkinson’s disease research and clinical care, making it the second-largest nongovernmental funder of Parkinson's research. The largest and newest funder, the Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF), has funded more than $800 million in translational and early clinical research since 2000.

MJFF funds promising Parkinson's disease science to ensure new ideas flow into the pipeline and drive urgently needed breakthroughs for people living with the disease. Through open funding programs and staff-directed grants, the foundation speeds efforts to grow our understanding of Parkinson's biology and clinical experience, measure Parkinson' disease pathology and progression, and develop therapies to alleviate symptoms and slow or stop disease. Scientists (both academic and industry) looking to get in on MJFF's latest funding opportunities can submit their proposals through Sept. 26, with funds anticipated in May 2019.

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