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The Voice From Washington

NETRP Targeted as First Priority for PD Funding Requests

Mary Richards
Director of Government Relations, PAN

One of the top legislative priorities for the Parkinson's community this year is also one if its best-kept secrets: the Neurotoxin Exposure Treatment Program (NETRP) of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). NETRP is important to the Parkinson's community because it specifically targets innovative research into neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's. For this reason, the Parkinson's Action Network (PAN) targeted the program as a priority issue for the participants at its recent Research and Education Forum & Public Policy Forum in Washington, DC, with $40 million as the "ask" (read more about the Forum in Around & About the Community).

"NETRP has supplied us with vital knowledge about Parkinson's disease and how we can protect ourselves from dangers that may cause it," said Amy Comstock, PAN Executive Director. "As members of the Parkinson's community, it will absolutely benefit us to push for continued funding for this important and innovative research that may some day lead us to a still-better understanding of PD, and eventually, a cure."

Initiated in 1997, NETRP focuses on biomedical research designed not only to improve the treatment of neurological diseases but to identify the causes of such diseases and ways to prevent them. Currently, this program has 79 biomedical research projects underway in 22 states. While the explicit and legitimate purpose of the program is to generate information on how best to protect military personnel and minimize or eliminate future exposures to harmful substances and situations (this is the Department of Defense, after all!), its ramifications are expected to be much wider. Soldiers and sailors face daily exposure to toxic chemicals such as pesticides and jet fuel and low-level radiation from sonar and radar. Scientific studies have found that these everyday exposures, along with head injuries, put our troops at an increased risk for developing neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's, ALS and Alzheimer's - all of which cause permanent loss of brain and nerve cells.

"The power of the NETRP is in its dual-use nature," said Col. Brian Lukey, Director of the Military Operational Medicine Research Program, U.S. Army Medical Research Materiel Command. "The military can leverage scientific advancements in Parkinson's disease research to advance cognitive performance and mental health among our American warfighters, both when they are on the front line and when they return home to loved ones. The civilian community will better understand the causes of the disease to prevent its occurrence, will more quickly diagnose the disease to initiate treatment earlier and will - we hope - develop treatments to someday cure Parkinson's disease itself. Both the Parkinson's community and the military benefit."

Projects conducted with NETRP partnership or funding include the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research Fast Track Program to establish early detection of Parkinson's disease through biomarkers (to which PDF, also, has contributed), investigations into oxidative damage in the brain and identification of possible neuroprotective agents. NETRP is also currently working to establish hereditary links to Parkinson's disease, which is opening the door to developing new treatments for both hereditary and environmentally-induced Parkinson's. This important research is expediting the discovery process, significantly advancing the science of neurology and enhancing military readiness. The $40 million in funding that advocates requested at PAN's 11th Annual Forum is crucial to maintain critical NETRP-funded projects.

For those who were unable to attend the Forum and learn about NETRP, we are pleased to announce that for the first time, through a generous donation from the Charles and Vivian Sukenik Philanthropic Foundation, the Forum has been cybercast and is still available via the Internet. You may find a link to the cybercast on PAN's website, www.parkinsonsaction.org. The cybercast allows on-line participants to watch all of the presentations from the PAN Forum. Online participants can also contact their Members of Congress through a special locating tool, the CapWiz system, available on the PAN website. We encourage all members of the Parkinson's community to familiarize themselves with the CapWiz system, and to contact their representatives. And, of course, don't forget to ask your representatives to support the $40 million in NETRP funding.

Founded in 1991 and based in Washington, DC, PAN is the unified education and advocacy voice of the Parkinson's community. PDF uses an important portion of your contributions to support PAN - $150,000 in the current year. For more information on how you can join PAN and be an advocate for the Parkinson's community, please visit the PAN website or call (800) 850-4726.