Apply for a Translational Research Grant (PDF Community Choice Research Awards)

The PDF Translational Research Grants are an extension of the PDF Community Choice Research Awards Program, which funds research projects targeting symptomatic areas identified by the patient community.

Proposals should aim to improve patient outcomes in four areas — cognitive change, dystonia, fatigue and gastrointestinal dysfunction — each of which represents a debilitating symptom of the disease. These symptoms result from complex pathophysiology and their etiology is poorly understood. Currently, there are limited treatment options available to alleviate their burden; however, options to ease these symptoms could significantly improve the lives of millions worldwide.

Program Overview
This new funding opportunity aims to advance our understanding of Parkinson’s. It is an extension of the Community Choice Research Awards (CCRA), which began in 2013, with a simple question posed to people with Parkinson’s and care partners “What are your unmet needs?” As a result, CCRA became the first grant awards in the Parkinson’s community to set research priorities based upon the insights of those living with the disease. To date, based upon two surveys of the Parkinson’s community, CCRA has identified four areas of unmet needs — cognitive change, dystonia, fatigue and gastrointestinal dysfunction.

In response, PDF has already convened multi-disciplinary working groups to address each of the four areas, in order to identify relevant clinical issues, gaps in scientific knowledge and strategies for advancing research. From these working groups, it has become clear that follow-up research is needed to jumpstart the reverse translation process and to attract the support of large funders (e.g., National Institutes of Health) to address these symptoms in Parkinson’s disease.

PDF seeks clinical, pre-clinical, or basic research proposals that will directly impact the understanding of the four research areas outlined below. The proposals must be clearly relevant to Parkinson’s and its future treatment. Proposals that involve collaboration across disciplines, and with the patient community are encouraged.

Targeted Reverse Translation Areas

  • Cognitive Change: Proposals should address gaps of knowledge, which include: the heterogeneity of cognitive change in Parkinson's, risk factors for cognitive decline, biomarkers of cognitive change, the relationship of cognition to other non-motor symptoms, the role of nutrition or exercise in cognitive change and the relationship of patient-reported outcomes to clinical measures of functional impairment.
  • Dystonia: Proposals should address gaps in knowledge, which include: the role of dopaminergic and non-dopaminergic transmitters in dystonia, the identification of circuit-level or molecular changes that are key to driving dystonic movements in Parkinson's and the identification of novel therapeutic targets for treatment. Also of interest are the development of models relevant to dystonia in Parkinson's and the characterization of a clinical study population best suited for studies (e.g., imaging).
  • Fatigue: Gaps in knowledge and possible research directions are summarized by PDF working groups in Friedman et al. 2016 (DOI: 10.1038/npjparkd.2015.25) and Kluger et al. 2016 (DOI: 10.1002/mds.26511). Proposals should seek to uncover the pathophysiologic basis of fatigue as well as further characterize phenomenological and epidemiological aspects of fatigue in Parkinson's. Potential lines of research could examine biofluids for potential markers of fatigue or utilize fMRI or nuclear imaging to identify the neural basis to fatigue or the potential role of neuroinflammation.
  • Gastrointestinal Dysfunction: Gastrointestinal Dysfunction: Proposals should address gaps in knowledge, which include: the need to accurately define Parkinson's disease constipation and describe its phenomenology and the need to develop screening questionnaires to adequately collect relevant data. Investigations into the pathophysiology and natural history of constipation in Parkinson's, using tools for motility monitoring or smartphone applications to facilitate frequent data collection, are also of interest.

Level of Support
The total funding pool will be $500,000. The level of support will vary based upon the needs of the research project, with total costs capped at $100,000 per award. Funds will be awarded for one year of research. Indirect costs, not exceeding 10 percent of direct costs, may be deducted from the total.

It is anticipated that five to eight awards will be funded via this RFA.

The Translational Research Awards are open to both US-based and international applicants possessing a Ph.D., M.D. or equivalent degree, regardless of citizenship.

PDF will accept proposals that are directly related to the four areas described, and that aim to improve understanding or treatment of Parkinson's disease.

Awards will be based upon relevance to Parkinson’s and scientific merit. There is no requirement to fund projects representing all four areas.

Application Instructions & Deadlines
Applicants must first submit a letter of intent (LOI) no later than Thursday, September 15, 2016. Based on favorable peer-review to be completed by early October, applicants may then be invited to submit a full application also for peer-review by Wednesday, November 30, 2016.

All applications must be submitted online through the PDF website at; no paper copies will be accepted.

Award decisions will be made in January 2017.

Questions and Additional Information
Please contact with any questions regarding this award.