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The Michael J. Fox Foundation Awards $2 Million to Shed Light on Role of LRRK2 and Alpha-Synuclein Genes in Parkinson's Disease
Date:1/15/2008

NEW YORK, Jan. 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --- The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research today announced approximately $2 million in total funding for seven research studies aiming to advance the ability of the Parkinson's research field, and drug makers, to therapeutically target two genes -- LRRK2 and alpha-synuclein -- that play a major, but still only partially understood, role in Parkinson's disease.

"Critical Challenges is uniquely designed to increase researcher focus on specific research challenges standing in the way of therapeutic progress," said Katie Hood, chief executive officer. "In this round, our research staff canvassed the world's leading PD experts to identify the precise issues holding up LRRK2 and alpha-synuclein drug development. We then structured our funding to incentivize scientists to look for the exact answers that will break down those roadblocks and allow work to move forward with greater impact. As in everything we do, our ultimate goal is to advance scientific solutions that can tangibly improve patients' quality of life."

LRRK2 and alpha-synuclein were selected for study under the first funding round of MJFF's Critical Challenges in PD program following a survey of the field by the Foundation's research staff and advisors. Alpha-synuclein was the first gene associated with PD, and pathological clumping of the protein product of the alpha-synuclein gene within cells of the brain represents a nearly universal thread linking multiple forms of Parkinson's. The association of the LRRK2 gene to PD was discovered more recently but appears to contribute to a substantial number of Parkinson's cases -- as high as 40 percent in some ethnic groups.

Investigators awarded under the alpha-synuclein challenge will look at various ways in which disease-related modifications of alpha-synuclein might lead to toxic effects. Hilal Lashuel, PhD, of Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne in Switzerland a
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SOURCE Michael J. Fox Foundation
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