Michael J. Fox Foundation's Rapid Response Innovation Awards Hit Mid-2009 With More Than $1 Million Funded in High-risk/High-reward Approaches to Parkinson's Disease
June 25, 2009 — As of mid-2009, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research has already funded over $1 million in high-risk, high-reward approaches to Parkinson’s therapeutic development through its groundbreaking Rapid Response Innovation Awards. Projects include investigations of the safety and efficacy of an FDA-approved drug for kidney disease to treat Parkinson’s; characterization of a tenuous link between PD and certain strains of influenza virus; and a proof-of-principle approach to refine deep brain stimulation (DBS) into a potentially more effective symptomatic therapy.
Rapid Response, one of the Foundation’s Edmond J. Safra Core Programs for PD Research, earmarks up to $2 million annually to support research with little to no existing preliminary data, but potential to crack open entirely new ways of understanding or treating Parkinson’s disease. The program has no deadline, instead accepting researchers’ proposals on a rolling basis throughout the year in order to fund truly novel thinking whenever inspiration strikes.
“Rapid Response enables us to assess the best new ideas in real time, quickly vet their potential, and move the most promising ones to the next level fast,” said Katie Hood, CEO of MJFF. “This reflects our commitment to keep fresh ideas flowing into the Parkinson’s therapeutic pipeline, as well as our recognition that when great research ideas have to wait for a program deadline, so do PD patients — a status quo we are determined to improve on.”
Highlights of the 2009 program include:
--Curt R. Freed, MD, of the University of Colorado has discovered that phenylbutyrate, a drug already approved by the U.S. FDA to treat kidney disease, prevents brain deterioration in pre-clinical models of Parkinson’s. The drug may turn on a protective gene called DJ-1 in the brain. Dr. Freed is studying 12 people with recently diagnosed PD to determine if the drug can increase DJ-1 levels and set the stage for determining whether phenylbutyrate may slow disease progression.