The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research (MJFF) is launching a new funding program to promote collaborative analysis of subtypes of the protein alpha-synuclein.
Aggregating in the cells of all people with Parkinson's disease (PD), alpha-synuclein is a major target for drug development. To advance those efforts, scientists must analyze different species of this protein—resulting from splicing or post-translational modifications—to name those implicated in the pathological accumulation and create therapeutics with greater sensitivity and specificity. Such knowledge also could serve validation of a PD biomarker, a tool that tracks the disease process allowing for earlier diagnosis and faster testing of interventions.
"Alpha-synuclein is our most promising target for a drug that could stop or prevent PD," said Todd Sherer, CEO of MJFF. "Understanding what species of this protein are involved in the disease would accelerate development of a disease-modifying therapy, the greatest unmet need of the five million people worldwide living with PD."
MJFF previously has funded individual academic and industry scientists to characterize and quantify alpha-synuclein species in clinical samples. This initiative expands that effort to encourage multi-institutional teams to collaboratively develop and execute milestone-driven plans for addressing the critical challenges of identifying, verifying and cross-validating alpha-synuclein species in human PD samples. The findings of these teams could provide more detailed understanding of heightened protein load in PD.
The latest in the LEAPS (Linked Efforts to Accelerate Parkinson's Solutions) MJFF model, Alpha-synuclein Pathology LEAPS 2014 will grant up to $750,000 to each project to support up to a two-year research plan. The Foundation also has streamlined access to data and biosamples from participating clinical Parkinson's studies for use in projects like these and in non-MJFF funded research.