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PDF Awards $700,000 in 18 Seed Grants for Promising Parkinson's Research

The Parkinson's Disease Foundation is pleased to announce awards totaling $700,000 through its International Research Grants Program (IRGP) to 18 Parkinson's research scientists in the United States and four other countries.

The successful candidates were selected by PDF's Scientific Awards Committee on May 28 from a pool of 79 proposals.

The program offers one-year grants of up to $40,000 beginning July 1, 2004.

"The quality and variety of proposals that we received were very exciting," said Dr. Stanley Fahn, PDF's Scientific Director. "These projects reinforce the importance of our commitment to fund promising research opportunities to help advance the basic and clinical science of Parkinson's disease."

One of the successful proposals was from Dr. Gil Levkowitz and his colleagues at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel, who will use their PDF funds to study dopamine cells in zebrafish. The aim of the study is to identify the genetic signals that control the development and survival of embryonic dopamine cells. This work has implications for future cell replacement treatments in Parkinson's disease.

In another funded project, Dr. Philip J. Thomas from the University of Texas in Dallas, will use transgenic mice (that is, animals that are genetically modified to carry an extra gene, or modified by deleting a gene) to explore the process of brain cell death in PD. These researchers will use this technique to find out more about the metabolism and chemical properties of alpha-synuclein - a protein that has been implicated in some cases of Parkinson's. Knowledge of the process in transgenic mice could suggest preventative forms of therapy for human PD patients.

In a third project, a team led by Dr. Daniel Lévesque at Laval University, Ste-Foy, Canada, will explore the relationship between the brain's dopamine system, levodopa-induced dyskinesias and a family of proteins called "retinoid receptors." Using monkeys with experimental parkinsonism, researchers will test whether compounds that act on retinoid receptors can reduce twisting and writhing movements caused by levodopa. If effective, this approach may offer hope for patients who suffer from uncontrolled or disabling dyskinesias.

Working with the help of a fourth grant, a group at Chicago's Northwestern University led by Dr. Mohan Sapru will use a rat model of parkinsonism to test the efficacy of a gene therapy technique in preventing the production of both natural and mutant forms of human alpha-synuclein. Derangements in alpha-synuclein occur in some rare forms of Parkinson's disease. If such prevention - known as "muting" - is found to be successful, the experiment could possibly become the basis for an anti-Parkinson's therapy.

PDF is proud to contribute to funding the important and promising research efforts of these outstanding young scientists. A complete list of awardees appears below.

2004 - 2005 Recipients of the PDF International Research Grants Program

J. PAUL BOLAM, Ph.D.
Medical Research Council Anatomical Neuropharmacology Unit
Oxford, United Kingdom

SIMONE ENGELENDER, M.D., Ph.D.
The B. Rappaport Faculty of Medicine
Haifa, Israel

SUSAN FOX, Ph.D.
Toronto Western Hospital
University of Toronto
Toronto, Canada

JULIA M. GEORGE, Ph.D.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Urbana, IL

DAEWOO LEE, Ph.D.
Ohio University
Athens, OH

DANIEL LéVESQUE, Ph.D.
Laval University
Ste-Foy, Canada

GIL LEVKOWITZ, Ph.D.
The Weizmann Institute of Science
Rehovot, Israel

VASANTHY NARAYANASWAMI, Ph.D.
Children's Hospital and Research Center at Oakland
Oakland, CA

DAVID PARK, Ph.D.
University of Ottawa
Ottawa, Canada

EMMANUEL POTHOS, Ph.D.
Tufts University
Boston, MA

JEAN-CHRISTOPHE ROCHET, Ph.D.
Purdue University
West Lafayette, IN

MOHAN SAPRU, Ph.D.
Northwestern University
Chicago, IL

PHILIP J. THOMAS, Ph.D.
U.T. Southwestern Medical Center
Dallas, TX

JOELLE VAN DER WALT, Ph.D.
Duke University Medical Center
Durham, NC

KONSTANTINOS VEKRELLIS, Ph.D.
Foundation of Biomedical Research of the Academy of Athens
Athens, Greece

ANTHONY WEST, Ph.D
FUHS - The Chicago Medical School
North Chicago, IL

JIN XU, Ph.D.
Carilas St. Elizabeth's Medical Center
Boston, MA

CYRUS ZABETIAN, M.D.
VA Puget Sound Health
Care System
Seattle, WA

Calling All Researchers!

With pleasure, we invite members of the scientific community to submit proposals for the International Research Grants Program (IRGP). Proposals submitted in 2004 will be considered for Fiscal Year 2006 (July 1, 2005 - June 30, 2006) grants in early 2005. The deadline for completed applications is February 9, 2005. Applications for Fiscal Year 2006 will be available on our website by mid-September 2004.

The IRGP is the oldest competitive program providing private seed grants for Parkinson's research. The program offers one-year grants of up to $40,000, none of which can be applied to institutional overhead. Both basic and clinical research proposals are eligible for support. Preference will be given to scientists who are at an early stage in their professional careers.

Visit our website, www.pdf.org, to download an application for the IRGP, or contact Sharon Stone at (800) 457-6676 or sstone@pdf.org.