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The Michael J. Fox Foundation awards nearly $200,000 to develop novel drugs for Parkinson's disease

The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research (MJFF) has awarded a grant to Academy Professor Mart Saarma, PhD, and his team at the Institute of Biotechnology of the University of Helsinki. The funding will be used in conjunction with HermoPharma Company for the therapeutic development of the neurotrophic factor cerebral dopamine neurotrophic factor (CDNF) as a potential treatment for Parkinson's disease (PD).

Saarma's major breakthrough in this field was the discovery of CDNF, and he has performed subsequent demonstrations that it has potential to both protect and repair injured neurons in pre-clinical models of PD. MJFF has been funding Saarma's team to investigate CDNF since 2006, including a $500,000 award in 2010 to study the therapeutic potential of CDNF in pre-clinical models of PD. The newly-awarded grant will be used to further complete these studies.

PD is a disorder of the central nervous system that results from the loss of dopamine-producing brain cells. Neurotrophic factors are are proteins that promote the survival, growth and function of neurons in the brain, and therefore, are of major interest to PD researchers.

Saarma's team and a team headed by Professor Raimo K. Tuominen, MD, PhD, of the Faculty of Pharmacy, have in the past compared the neuroprotective and neurorestorative properties of CDNF with those of other neurotrophic factors like glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor, or GDNF. The results were promising in terms of developing CDNF as a novel treatment for PD.

Future pre-clinical studies on the efficacy of CDNF on PD are being carried out in collaboration with Judy L. Cameron, PhD, of the University of Pittsburgh and with Zhiming Zhang, MD, of the University of Kentucky.


Contact: Mart Saarma
University of Helsinki

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