Funding organisation for research on Parkinson's disease
Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF) aims to encourage the development of better therapies for treating Parkinson’s disease (PD). It funds research into finding a cure for the disease. The foundation has its office in New York City, US.
The MJFF was founded by Canadian American actor Michael J Fox in 2000. The 50-year-old Fox himself is affected by PD. MJFF is a non-profit organisation and a registered charity in Canada. It is one of the largest private funders of PD research in the world.
The foundation has funded more than $290m in research. It accepts donations from individuals and organisations. More than 85% of the donations directly go into research funding.
Parkinson’s disease affects the central nervous system. The main motor symptoms of the disease are caused due to the death of cells which generate dopamine in substantia nigra, a region in the human brain.
The foundation keeps itself abreast of worldwide developments in the field. It mainly funds translational and clinical research, though high-risk / high-reward research is also encouraged.
Michael J Fox’s Foundation funds pipeline programmes, such as projects that do not have any preliminary data but have the potential for high rewards, as well as preclinical development of therapies.
The MJFF also focuses on priority areas, which it defines from time to time. The priority areas for 2012 include: "Defining Parkinson’s disease and its progression, reducing the unmet symptoms of PD and side effects of existin treatments, and altering PD progression."
In addition to pipeline programmes and priority areas, funds are made available for researchers to access resources, such as tissues of rodent models and human post-mortem tissues, human body donations, human bio-specimens and access to previous clinical data.
The MJFF follows a set approach in research funding. The approach, as the foundation says, helps it prioritise the research that would help reach its goal of finding a cure to PD.
The proposals received are first reviewed by the scientific staff at the foundation. They look for ideas that are encouraging and have realistic plans of finding a treatment / cure to the disease.
The selected proposals are usually funded in two months. In addition to funding, the staff and advisors of the MJFF involve themselves in the funded research, helping the organisation to measure outcomes of the research.
When the research findings prove to be promising, the foundation partners with researchers for further development.
The MJFF is sponsoring an observational clinical study called the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI). The programme aims to identify biomarkers of Parkinson’s disease by studying recently diagnosed patients and healthy subjects.
The study will enrol 400 PD patients and 200 control participants in the US and Europe. It will help create a database on the disease. The database will be made available to researchers in the field.
The foundation generates antibodies and makes them available to researchers at a low cost. LRRK2 are the first high-quality antibodies, generated in June 2011.
The organisation makes animal models available for PD research. It has funded the generation of rodent transgenic models, and is currently funding various new and existing models.
The Fox Trial Finder initiative of the foundation encourages PD patients to participate in clinical trials to boost new findings in the field. The initiative helps volunteers consider trial options and researchers connect with the volunteers. The initiative has 3,000 volunteers.
The MJFF has initiated a Partnering Program to encourage synergies between the fund awardees and industry players. It has funded 150 PD projects, which are a collaboration of researchers and industry partners.
GlaxoSmithKline (China) R&D signed separate agreements with MJFF awardees Signum Biosciences and ProteoTech in November and December 2001 respectively, to collaborate in developing treatments which target the protein alpha-synuclein.
The foundation has also fostered partnerships with Elan Pharmaceuticals and Merck Serono (EMD Serono). Elan’s partnership with the MJFF gives the company the right of first negotiation for any novel approaches to PD drug discovery.
The MJFF organises annual fundraising events in addition to the PD Therapeutics Conference and research roundtables. The foundation has launched a grassroots level community fundraising programme, called Team Fox, in 2006. It has 1,500 volunteers who raise awareness and funds for the disease. Since its inception, Team Fox has raised $15m.
The MJFF also receives grants from several foundations and companies promoting pharmaceutical research. Recent grants to the MJFF include $50m from the Brin Wojcicki Foundation in 2011.
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