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Spotlight on Research Supported by PDF

Profile of Jeffrey Kordower, Ph.D.
Director, Section of Neurobiology — Department of Neurological Sciences
Director, ResearchCenter for Brain Repair
Rush University, Chicago, IL

Since the 1999 merger between the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation (PDF) and the United Parkinson Foundation, we have been privileged to work with top researchers and clinicians at Rush University Medical Center (RUMC) in Chicago. Our annual grant to RUMC provides funding not only for Rush’s respected movement disorders center, but also for the groundbreaking work of the Research Center for Brain Repair, headed by Dr. Jeffrey Kordower for the last 12 years.

Dr. Kordower is a leading researcher in the fields of gene therapy, neural transplantation, nonhuman primate models of neurodegenerative disease and experimental therapeutic strategies for Parkinson’s disease. He is the author of more than 175 peer-reviewed manuscripts. One of these, published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 1995, reported on his pioneering demonstration that fetal transplants can survive in patients with Parkinson’s disease. In 2000, he published the lead article in Science showing for the first time that gene delivery of a neurotrophic factor called GDNF can prevent degeneration of brain cells and restore function in nonhuman primate models of Parkinson’s disease. Both of these papers continue to influence the direction of Parkinson’s research today.

Currently Dr. Kordower’s main interests include gene therapy and cell replacement strategies using stem cells in rodent and nonhuman primate models of Parkinson’s disease. His research in primates on gene therapy delivery of neurturin, a naturally occurring protein that works to protect dopamine neurons from dying or malfunctioning, paved the way for clinical studies in humans. Results from the Phase I trial of CERE-120, the virus vector that carries neurturin, were encouraging, and researchers are now recruiting participants for Phase II studies. Dr. Kordower is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of Ceregene, Inc., the company that manufactures CERE-120.

When Dr. Kordower is not in his lab, he teaches future Parkinson’s researchers in courses on Neural Sciences at RUMC and classes on Medical Neuroanatomy at the University of Chicago School of Medicine. He also has a leading role in the Society for Neuroscience as the Chairman of the Committee on Animal Research.

Dr. Kordower’s 25-plus years of experience in Parkinson’s science and education have earned him spots on several prestigious grant review committees. He is an ad hoc reviewer for the Veterans Administration, the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health Special Emphasis Panel. He also serves on the editorial boards of several academic journals, including the Journal of Neuroscience and Surgical Neurology.

Dr. Kordower’s work is supported as part of PDF’s matching grant to RUMC. For fiscal year 2007, PDF’s grant of $275,000 is matched dollar-for-dollar by Rush’s own private fundraising, for a total of $550,000 in private funding.