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Michael J Fox Foundation reveals USD 1.2m Parkinsonís drug target funding

The Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research offers USD 1.2m in total awards to four research teams working to advance potentially disease-modifying therapeutic targets for Parkinson's disease

The Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research (MJFF) has offered USD 1.2m in total awards to four research teams working to advance potentially disease-modifying therapeutic targets for Parkinson's disease (PD) along the drug development pipeline.

The funding was awarded under the Novel Approaches to Drug Discovery for Parkinson's disease programme, the funding of which was provided by Irish neuroscience biotech, Elan.

The Novel Approaches programme helps to develop therapies against targets that already have some promising initial data. It is also an important element of the foundation's increasing engagement with pharmaceutical and biotech company partners.

Dale Schenk, Elan's CSO, said: "We are very pleased to work side by side with The Michael J Fox Foundation in the pursuit of effective treatment options for patients suffering from Parkinson's disease. We look forward to working together to move us closer to a therapy that can slow or stop progression of this terrible disease."

Awards went to the following research programmes:
Dr Asa Abeliovich of Columbia University is targeting the autophagy cellular pathway involved in clearing away protein such as alpha-synuclein, whose clumping is a hallmark of PD pathology. Abeliovich will test small-molecule drugs which can enhance the autophagy pathway to see if they can reduce deficits in animal models.

Dr Neil Howell of San Diego-based Migenix will work in rodent models to optimise administration of the compound MX-4565, a non- feminising oestrogen analogue that has been shown to be effective in protecting nerve cells from toxic stresses.

Dr Peter Jenner, of UK-based Proximagen Neuroscience will investigate the protein osteopontin (OPN) as a PD treatment. Expression of this protein is decreased in PD, and Jenner's team has shown that it is neuroprotective. The researchers will investigate a gene therapy approach to deliver OPN to the brains of rodent models of Parkinson's using viral vectors.

Dr Pamela Maher of the Salk Institute in California has identified a neuroprotective small molecule called fisetin, which has been shown to maintain levels of glutathione (GSH), a molecule which defends against oxidative stress. GSH levels have been shown to decrease in PD, which may contribute to disease progression. Maher's team will create fisetin derivatives and test them in cell-based and rodent models of PD.

2nd August 2007

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