As Michael J. Fox Returns to Primetime, His Research Foundation Urgently
Pursues the Cure for Parkinson's
NEW YORK, Sept. 26, 2013
NEW YORK, Sept. 26, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Tonight, Michael J. Fox
returns to television as the star of his own sitcom after more than two
decades living with Parkinson's disease. Fox's decision to return to primetime
has injected Parkinson's into the national conversation — a conversation
already transformed by The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research
(MJFF), which the actor launched in 2000 with the exclusive goal of funding
research to speed a cure for the disease.
"What I had in mind was an organization built for speed, eschewing bureaucracy
and taking an entrepreneurial approach toward helping researchers find a cure
for Parkinson's," says Michael J. Fox. "There was no existing blueprint for
accomplishing what we wanted to do. We were faced with the challenge of
inventing a new system."
Parkinson's disease is estimated to affect one in 100 people over age 60. It
is the second-most common brain disorder after Alzheimer's and the 14th
leading cause of death in the United States. The average age of onset is 60,
though some people are diagnosed at age 40 or younger. There is no cure, and
available treatments are inadequate to patients' medical needs: They address
only some of the symptoms and bring disabling side effects of their own.
"Michael J. Fox's return to television has created an opportune moment to
consider how much work remains to be done in the realm of neurodegeneration
research," wrote MJFF CEO Todd Sherer, Ph.D., in an op-ed published by
Scientific American on September 25. "For every patient, a community is
affected, as the impact of PD ripples to loved ones and caregivers. This is a
global problem, but one that we can and must solve."
Largest Nonprofit Funder of Parkinson's Disease Research
The Michael J. Fox Foundation grew quickly from startup to the world's largest
nonprofit funder of Parkinson's research, and has made grants totaling more
than $350 million to research teams all over the world (about 30 percent of
funds go to international teams). In November 2008 The New York Times called
MJFF "the most credible voice on Parkinson's research in the world."
The Foundation typically allocates donor capital within a few months of
receiving donations, eschewing an endowment or large investment reserve to
quickly push research to the next level. Since inception, 89 cents of every
dollar spent by MJFF has gone directly to high-impact research programs.
Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News called MJFF a "beacon of efficiency"
after the Foundation placed first on their list of 20 grant-giving disease
foundations in May 2013.
Due in no small part to the Foundation's efforts, more new Parkinson's drugs
are in development today than ever before. A high-risk, high-reward model
drives investment in early-stage research, getting innovative new projects off
the ground to make them attractive to larger-scale partners. Earlier this
month, biotechnology companies Amicus Therapeutics and Civitas Therapeutics,
Inc., announced follow-on investments to projects kick-started with MJFF
funding. Additional support for these projects — around a disease-modifying
drug target and improved delivery of symptomatic treatment — will mean faster
development and delivery of therapies that will improve the lives of
Parkinson's disease patients.
Patient Engagement to Accelerate Discovery and Development
In addition to funding promising studies, MJFF problem-solves to address
operational challenges in the landscape of biomedical research. One roadblock
to drug discovery and development is the lack of reliable and validated
Parkinson's biomarkers. A biomarker — a substance, process or characteristic
in the body associated with the risk or presence of disease or that changes
over time in a way that can be linked to disease progression — can help
diagnose the disease sooner, track its progression and test the effects of new
The MJFF-sponsored landmark Parkinson's Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI)
launched in 2010 with 24 clinical sites around the world capturing and
analyzing standardized Parkinson's disease patient and healthy control data to
identify biological markers of the disease. The first significant PPMI results
were published last month in JAMA Neurology, where investigators reported
differences between Parkinson's patients and controls in spinal fluid protein
levels. Research continues into these and other potential biomarkers, and PPMI
has expanded to study individuals with Parkinson's risk factors to try to
characterize the disease before the onset of motor symptoms. The hope is that
such understanding will lead to a preventive therapy for Parkinson's.
To identify biomarkers and test new drugs, research needs volunteers; 85
percent of clinical studies are delayed due to slow volunteer enrollment. MJFF
created Fox Trial Finder, an online clinical trial matching tool to connect
interested Parkinson's patients and healthy controls to Parkinson's disease
studies they may be eligible for and interested in. With more than 20,000
registrants and 300 active trials in the United States, Canada, United
Kingdom, Ireland and Australia, Fox Trial Finder is launching this fall in
five additional European countries: Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Austria.
think/able Campaign Collects Messages for Michael
To mark Michael J. Fox's return to television, the Foundation has launched the
think/able campaign, which celebrates the power of optimism and proactivity to
overcome challenges and meet our goals. Now through the end of October, the
project is collecting messages to Michael from the community. All are welcome
to submit a message using the form available on the Foundation's Web site at
About The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research
Our challenges don't define us. Our actions do.
The Michael J. Fox Foundation exists for one reason: to find the cure for
Parkinson's disease in our lifetime. Parkinson's is the second most common
brain disease, estimated to affect one in 100 individuals over age 60. Founded
by Michael J. Fox in 2000, the Foundation has quickly grown to become the
largest nonprofit funder of Parkinson's research globally, and was called "the
most credible voice on Parkinson's research in the world" by The New York
Times. As Michael returns to network television full-time after more than two
decades living with Parkinson's disease, the Foundation has launched
think/able, a project celebrating the power of optimism and determination to
overcome challenges and achieve our biggest goals. Now through the end of
October, visit the Foundation's Web site to write Michael a message about how
you think/able to reach for your dreams.
SOURCE The Michael J. Fox Foundation
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