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Parkinson’s Foundation Announces $1.2 Million Investment to Advance Careers, Support Innovation of Early Career Parkinson’s Scientists

NEW YORK & MIAMI The Parkinson's Foundation is pleased to announce a $1.2 million investment in 27 career development and fellowship grants to support the work of promising early career scientists in the field of Parkinson's.

"We are proud to continue our long-standing tradition of nurturing the careers of the next generation of Parkinson's researchers," said John L. Lehr, chief executive officer of the Parkinson's Foundation. "Their innovative ideas may one day transform the field for millions worldwide."

Every year, the Parkinson's Foundation invests $4 million in a diverse research portfolio. A significant portion of that amount is directed toward career development grants and fellowships. The grant programs, which range from three months to two years in length, provide students, and postdoctoral researchers and clinicians with the opportunity to test new ideas, work with mentors and transition into senior leaders.

One standout grant recipient this year is Xi Chen, Ph.D., of the Van Andel Research Institute, who is using a $100,000 postdoctoral fellowship to study an emerging area of genetics: the VPS35 gene. The role of the VPS35 gene, which was discovered to play a part in Parkinson's, is not well understood. Working under the guidance of mentor Darren Moore, Ph.D., whose early research was also funded by the Parkinson's Foundation, Dr. Chen will study a mouse model to understand how VPS35 might interact with proteins and brain cells and potentially lead to Parkinson's symptoms.

This understanding of the VPS35 gene may help to develop new drugs to prevent or treat Parkinson's in the future.

"As a former grantee, I know firsthand that the Parkinson's Foundation grant funding can help to launch a career in Parkinson's," Dr. Moore said. "In today's funding environment, the foundation's grants fill a critical gap and ensure that the best research continues."

"The Parkinson's Foundation recognizes that we must support the creativity and ingenuity of the next generation in order to make advances," said James Beck, Ph.D., chief scientific officer of the Parkinson's Foundation. "We are excited to track results from Dr. Chen and others whose work holds potential to help us end Parkinson's."

Parkinson's Foundation research investments are selected through a competitive application process reviewed by its Scientific Advisory Board, which includes scientific experts and foundation-trained patient advocates.

The foundation's latest career development and fellowship grants are listed below. Additional information is available about research we fund.

Clinical Training Fellowships | $460,000

Columbia University Medical Center°

Deepak Gupta, M.D.*

Devin Hall, M.D.*

Krithi Irmandy, M.D., Ph.D.

Lan Luo, M.D.**

Sarah O'Shea, M.D.*

Rush University Medical Center°

Avram Fraint, M.D.*

Anjali Gera, M.D.

Postdoctoral Research Fellowships | $275,000

D620N VPS35 Knock-In Mice: A New Model of Familial Parkinson's Disease

Xi Chen, Ph.D., Mentor: Darren Moore, Ph.D., Van Andel Research Institute

Mitochondrial Protein Homeostasis in Peripheral Axons

Jill Falk, Ph.D., Mentor: Thomas Schwarz, Ph.D., Harvard Medical School/Children's Hospital Boston

Human Dopamine Neuronal Progenitors for PD Therapeutic Development

Xiang Li, Ph.D., Mentor: Su-Chun Zhang, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison

Investigation of the Role of the Neuronal NLRP3 Inflammasome in PD

Nikhil Panicker, Ph.D., Mentor: Ted Dawson, M.D., Ph.D., Johns Hopkins School of Medicine°

Role of Cerebellum on Basal Ganglia Cortical Network in Parkinson's Disease

Nicholas Strzalkowski, Ph.D., Mentor: Zelma Kiss, M.D., Ph.D., F.R.C.S.C., University of Calgary, Canada°

Collaborative Fellowships | $138,000

Clinical Research Training Fellowship

(In partnership with the American Brain Foundation / American Academy of Neurology)

Wearable Devices and Smartphone Apps in PD

Michelle Fullard, M.D., Mentor: Alice Chen-Plotkin, M.D., University of Pennsylvania°

Parkinson's Foundation-PSG Mentored Clinical Research Award

(In partnership with the Parkinson Study Group)

Automated Closed-looped Algorithm to Rapidly Optimize DBS Settings for PD

Matthew Petrucci, Ph.D., Mentors: Paul Tuite, M.D., Colum MacKinnon, Ph.D., and Theoden Netoff, Ph.D., University of Minnesota

Parkinson's Foundation-HHMI Medical Fellowship

(In partnership with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute)

Molecular and Electrophysiological Characterization of Dbx1+ GPe Neurons

Zachary Abecassis, M.D., Mentor: C Savio Chan, Ph.D., candidate, Northwestern University, The Feinberg School of Medicine°

Parkinson's Foundation-APDA Summer Student Fellowships  | $60,000

(In partnership with the American Parkinson Disease Association)

Development of Non-invasive Immunotherapy for PD: Intranasal Targeting of Immunoglobulin G Antibodies to the CNS

Sam Boroumand, Mentor: Robert Thorne, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison

Brain Atrophy and the Progression of Cognitive Decline in Parkinson's

Carolina Cao, Mentor: Meghan Campbell, Ph.D., Washington University School of Medicine

Role of Lactate Shuttling in Motor Control of GPe Neurons

Isabel Fan, Mentor: C. Savio Chan, Ph.D., Northwestern University°

The Interaction of Two Parkinson's Disease Genes FBX07 and PINK1

Dima Hage, Mentor: David Park, Ph.D., University of Ottawa

Modulating SNr Neuronal Activity in PD and LID

Yong Hu, M.D., Ph.D. Student, Mentor: Un Jung Kang, M.D., Columbia University Medical Center°

Characterizing Microsaccades as a Novel Diagnostic Biomarker for PD

Sarah Kang, Mentor: Aasef Shaikh, M.D., Ph.D., Louis Stokes Cleveland Veterans Affairs Medical Center

Stability, Activity and Mutation Effects In Human and Mouse LRRK2

Rebekah Langston, Mentor: Mark Cookson, Ph.D., National Institutes of Health

Using Human Neurons to Delineate the Role of the Unfolded Protein Response in Parkinson's Disease

Lotus Lum, Mentor: Scott Oakes, M.D., University of California, San Francisco°

Mapping of Cortical Networks Activated by Dorsal vs. Ventral STN-DBS

Aarathi Minisandram, Mentor: Todd Herrington, M.D., Ph.D., Massachusetts General Hospital°

Effect of Levodopa on the Consolidation of Learning in People with PD

Zhen-Yi Andy Ou, Mentor: Madeleine Sharp, M.D., M.Sc., Montreal Neurological Hospital

Nuclear Membrane Abnormalities in a Symptomatic Dystonia Model

CheyAnne Rivera, Mentor: William Dauer, M.D., University of Michigan

Novel Neuro-ophthalmic Clinical Markers for Parkinson's Disease

Caroline Yu, Mentor: Y. Joyce Liao, M.D., Ph.D., Stanford School of Medicine

* Denotes second year of funding

** Denotes third year of funding

°Denotes Parkinson's Foundation Center of Excellence

About the Parkinson's Foundation

The Parkinson's Foundation is working toward a world without Parkinson's disease. Formed by the merger of National Parkinson Foundation (NPF) and the Parkinson's Disease Foundation (PDF), the mission of the Parkinson's Foundation is to invest in promising scientific research that will end Parkinson's disease and improve the lives of people with Parkinson's, and their families, through improved treatments, support and the best care. For more information, visit www.parkinson.org, or call (800) 4PD-INFO (473-4636).

About Parkinson's Disease (PD)

Affecting an estimated one million Americans and 10 million worldwide, PD is the second-most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer's and is the 14th-leading cause of death in the United States. It is associated with a progressive loss of motor control (e.g., shaking or tremor at rest and lack of facial expression) as well as non-motor symptoms (e.g., depression and anxiety). There is no cure for PD and 60,000 new cases are diagnosed each year in the United States alone.

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Editor's Note: Interviews are available upon request

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