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Past Funded Grants

These studies support NPF’s commitment to serving people with Parkinson’s disease, their families and communities, and healthcare professionals worldwide

NPF has funded more than $189 million in research and support services. Funded projects cover a wide range of areas important to the study of Parkinson’s disease.

Read about the 2015 Research and Intervention Investigator Awards for Parkinson's Disease.

Past Funded Research

Prion Like Propagation of a-Synuclein Pathology in iPSC-derived Dopamine Neurons from Patients with Parkinson's Disease

Edward A. Fon, MD, FRCP-C, Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University, Montreal, Canada.
Using induced stem cell lines derived from actual patients (non-embryonic), Dr. Fon will create neurons with PD in a cell culture.  He and his team will then look closely at the internal structures of the cells and how PD pathology affects them at the cell level.  They will also create neurons from people who didn’t have PD so that they can compare. Dr. Fon’s team has tested almost 200,000 potential drugs to stop Parkinson’s using generic human-derived cells and found some that seem like they may be able to slow down or stop the disease. They will repeat this test using actual, human-derived neurons created using induced stem cells to screen potential drugs to stop PD.

Studies of Prion-like Peripheral to CNS Transmission of α-synuclein Pathology Mouse Models
Benoit Giasson, PhD, Center for Translational Research in Neurodegenerative Disease, UF Center for Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.
A protein called alpha-synuclein is believed to be the key to Parkinson’s.  Dr. Giasson and his team are going to inject clumps of alpha-synuclein into the bodies of animals and then figure out if it can get into the brain from, for example, an injection in the leg.  If the protein does spread this way, and if the animal then develops symptoms of PD, then this could provide proof that this model does work.  It would also give us a model of PD that could be easily made and used in studies of drugs that might cure the disease.

PET Imaging of Hyperphosphorylated Tau Denotes Cognitive Impairment in Parkinson’s Disease
Stephen Gomperts, MD, PhD, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.
The protein tau is better known for its association with cognitive change in other conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or chronic traumatic encephalopathy caused by repeated impact to the brain. However, it is also seen in Parkinson’s.  A newly developed radioactive tracer will show where the protein tau is accumulating and create a picture using a PET scan.  For the first time, scientists will be able to look at tau in patients living with PD and figure out if the cognitive change we see in PD is a result of this protein or something else.

Exercise Targeting Cognitive Impairment in Parkinson’s Disease
Giselle M. Petzinger, MD, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California.
Parkinson’s experts believe that exercise is as important as any drug in holding back the disease, but many people with PD wonder, “What kind of exercise should I do?”  This study will test a new exercise protocol that Dr. Petzinger developed from studying the biology of exercise at the cellular level versus a more traditional approach. Her goal will be to show that this new, specially-designed exercise protocol actually improves high- level thinking in people with Parkinson’s. This important work will focus on improving early and subtle aspects of cognitive change, including standard tests of executive function but also novel tests that incorporate testing of aspects of thinking that are important to patients.

Risk Factors for Cognitive Change in Parkinson’s Disease from the Framingham Study
Rhoda Au, PhD, Boston University School of Medicine
If successful, this study will help us to understand how much cognitive change that we see in Parkinson’s is really part of Parkinson’s disease, versus being associated with other factors.  It will show us how much research into Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias can influence Parkinson’s-associated cognitive change and show us how much research into those diseases could help people with Parkinson’s.  Further, by focusing the Framingham team on Parkinson’s, it will help to direct researchers managing the richest epidemiological database ever constructed to help us to understand more broadly the life health history of people who develop Parkinson’s, thereby providing rich insight to help us to help people who may have this disease in their future – and how to avoid or minimize its impact.

Each grant was peer-reviewed and selected by the NPF’s Clinical and Scientific Advisory Board. In addition to this grant funding, NPF continues to fund the Parkinson’s Outcomes Project; the largest clinical study of its kind that is currently tracking more than 7,500 people with Parkinson’s who receive care at 21 NPF Centers of Excellence in four countries.

For more information, please read the NPF press release: The National Parkinson Foundation Awards Four Innovative Research Grants.

Can Parkinson's Disease Be Prevented?

This study is being conducted to determine if PD can be prevented by tracking the incidence of PD in a population where the expected incidence is known but are subjected to a series of neuroprotective interventions.

Investigators: Anat Mirelman, PhD; Nir Giladi, MD, Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center
Country: Israel

Are novel MRI features suitable biomarkers for motor and non-motor manifestations of Parkinson's Disease?
This study aims to show that the shape of brain structures, identified by imaging, can identify Parkinson’s disease and track its progress.

Investigator: Martin McKeown, MD, University of British Columbia
Country: Canada

Motor Programming and Memory
This study is identifying the mechanism of motor learning deficits in PD and exploring whether they can be corrected.

Investigator: M. Felice Ghilardi, MD, New York University
Country: USA

Sleep Disordered Breathing (SDB) in PD
This study of 200 people with PD is being conducted to identify the prevalence of SDB in PD, determine the correlation of SDB and cognitive impairment in PD, and determine the effect of positive airway pressure (PAP) on SDB and cognition in PD.  The study is enrolling both English and Spanish speaking subjects.

Investigator: Carlos Singer, MD, University of Miami
Country: USA

Biomarker Assessment of the Parkinson’s Associated Risk study (PARS) Cohort
This study is using biospecimens collected while the first signs of PD progress into diagnosable PD to determine if the change in blood chemistry will show the presence and progression of PD. Overall, the PARS project goal is to better understand who may be at risk for PD so that it can ultimately be prevented before it starts. For more information about the PARS study click her (link to

Investigator: Matthew Stern, MD, MSCE, University of Pennsylvania
Country: USA

ParkFit Trial Analysis
This study is testing a motivational regimen to see if it is the right approach to encourage patients to exercise, and to measure the results achieved.

Investigator: Bastiaan Bloem, MD, PhD, Radboud University
Country: The Netherlands

The Nintendo Wii vs. Handheld Control Gaming and its Relationship to Function in Clients with Parkinson’s Disease
This study is evaluating the use of the Wii for therapy for PD patients, with the goal of proving that the objective measures of performance and adherence available with the Wii will result in better outcomes.

Investigator: N. Ben Herz, OTD, MBA, OTR, Georgia Health and Sciences University
Country: USA

Visual Attention Deficits As An Early Sign of Cognitive Change
This study is exploring visual attention deficit as a symptom of Parkinson’s disease, yielding new insight into how Parkinson’s affects the brain and the manifestations of these symptoms.

Investigator: Sherrilene Classen, PhD, MPH, OTR/L, University of Florida
Country: USA

Early Detection of Cognitive Changes in the Brain
This study is using advanced imaging techniques to study the mechanisms that lead to Parkinson’s-related cognitive impairment in Parkinson’s disease, a model pioneered successfully in Alzheimer’s disease.

Investigator: Antonio Strafella, MD, PhD, FRCPC, Toronto Western Research Institute.
Country: Canada

Comparing Physical Therapy Outcomes: LSVT-BIG© v. Aquatic Methods
This study is comparing two new approaches to physical therapy for Parkinson’s disease with the potential to establish the efficacy of aquatic therapy, which is currently not covered by Medicare.

Investigator: David J. Houghton, MD, MPH, University of Louisville
Country: USA

Comparing PD Management Strategies: Comprehensive Service Delivery vs. Standard Care
This study is exploring the cost-effectiveness of coordinated care versus uncoordinated care in a controlled experiment.

Investigator: Robert Iansek, Ph.D., Victorian Comprehensive Parkinson Program
Country: Australia