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Hope in Progress: American Parkinson Disease Association Supports Researchers With $2.35 Million in New Funding

From genetic mutations to augmented reality, APDA-funded researchers delve into cutting-edge Parkinson's research in pursuit of answers

NEW YORK, September 08, 2022 /PRNewswire-PRWeb/ -- The American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA) has just awarded $2.35 million to support cutting-edge Parkinson's disease (PD) research for the 2022-2023 funding year – an increase of more than 25 percent from the prior year. The funded research projects will explore a range of important and innovative topics including: understanding the molecular underpinnings of anxiety in PD, probing the role of DNA damage in genetic mutations in PD, testing of augmented reality in the treatment of freezing of gait, and more. APDA focuses on investing in the most promising clinicians and scientific projects focused on discovery of the cause(s) and finding the cure(s) for Parkinson's disease (PD) and has been a funding partner in many major PD scientific breakthroughs since the organization began.

With someone diagnosed with PD every nine minutes, this research is critical as we push for better treatments and ultimately, a cure. APDA is steadfast in its research focus – identifying and supporting researchers early in their careers to encourage them to either commence or continue dedicating themselves to PD research, as well as helping established investigators pursue new and novel ideas. Leslie A. Chambers, President & CEO of APDA comments, "Part of APDA's tagline is 'hope in progress' and it's so rewarding to support our researchers as they develop their theories and obtain significant pilot data and initial proof of concept. This initial data often allows them to apply for and receive larger grants from the National Institutes of Health and other funding institutions." Chambers continues, "Without the initial support from APDA, some research projects might never get off the ground. We're proud to help make that progress happen and provide hope to everyone impacted by PD."

Grants for the year ahead have been awarded in the form of four Post-Doctoral Fellowships, thirteen Research Grants, one Diversity in Parkinson's Disease Research grant, eight APDA Centers for Advanced Research, and one George C. Cotzias Memorial Fellowship, APDA's most prestigious award.

For the third year in a row, APDA is awarding a specialized grant to a researcher focused on diverse and under-represented communities. APDA created the first-of-its-kind Diversity in Parkinson's Disease Research Grant in 2019 to encourage and support researchers who are committed to diversity-focused research so we can learn more about how the disease affects different populations and ultimately better serve people with PD from all communities.

All APDA grants are awarded through a competitive application process and reviewed by APDA's Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) which is comprised of scientists with a wide array of backgrounds and expertise in all areas relevant to PD research. The SAB meets annually to review all grant proposals and set the scientific direction of APDA's annual research investment. "As always, it is an incredibly challenging decision-making process, and the SAB has to make very tough choices" states Rebecca Gilbert, MD, PhD, and Chief Scientific Officer, APDA. "Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we were thrilled to be able to fund even more research this year, enabling us to say yes to some really innovative projects and promising researchers." (Meet some of the researchers in this video.)

The 2022-2023 APDA Research Grants

The George C. Cotzias Fellowship is APDA's most prestigious grant and is awarded to a young physician-scientist with exceptional promise who is establishing a career in research, teaching, and clinical services relevant to Parkinson's. The award spans three years and is designed to fund a long-range project focused on PD. This year's awardee is:

  • Gary Ho, MD, PhD -- Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston MA (Leveraging protein palmitoylation to correct vesicle trafficking defects in Parkinson disease)

APDA Diversity in Parkinson's Disease Research Grants are one-year grants to study the health inequities and/or differences among under-studied PD communities, across the spectrum of ethnicity, ancestry, geography, socioeconomic conditions, and gender. This year's awardee is:

  • Erin Foster, PhD -- Washington University, St, Louis, MO (Understanding engagement in research, clinical care, and community services among people of color with Parkinson disease)

Post-Doctoral Fellowships are awarded to support post-doctoral scientists who recently completed their PhD work and whose research holds promise to provide new insights into the pathophysiology, etiology, and treatment of PD. This year's awardees are:

  • Tyler Camp, PhD -- University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL (Alpha-synuclein oligomerization and membrane localization in Parkinson's disease)

  • Stephan Grimaldi, PhD -- Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA (Longitudinal changes of brainstem-based biomarkers of prodromal Parkinson's disease with Ultra-High Field MRI)

  • Anastasia Kuzkina, PhD -- Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA (Developing human IPSC models for examining host-strain interactions in synucleinopathy)

  • Andrew Zimnik, PhD -- Columbia University, New York, NY (Role of basal ganglia output in acquiring and executing complex motor skills)

Research Grants are awarded to investigators performing innovative PD research at major academic institutions across the United States. This year's awardees are:

  • Eamonn Dickson, PhD -- University of California, Davis. Davis, CA (Alpha-synuclein dependent remodeling of membrane contact sites as a driver of Parkinson's Disease neurotoxicity.)

  • Ronald Emeson, PhD -- Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN (ADAR-Mediated LRRK2 Therapeutics in Parkinson's Disease)

  • Sunil Kumar, PhD -- University of Denver, Denver, CO (Therapeutic Validation of Novel Targets Associated with Parkinson's Disease)

  • Gabsang Lee, PhD -- Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD (In vitro and in vivo efficacy of hit compound selected from OASIS drug screening platform)

  • James Liao, PhD -- Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, OH (External vs internal-triggered augmented-reality visual cues to treat freezing of gait)

  • Michael Lodato, PhD -- University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School, Worcester, MA (Single-cell whole genome sequencing analysis of DNA damage and somatic mutation in the human Parkinson's disease brain)

  • Ryan Roemmich, PhD -- Hugo W. Moser Research Institute at Kennedy Krieger, Baltimore, MD (An automated mHealth approach for video-based motor assessment in Parkinson's disease)

  • Hiroaki Sekiya, MD, PhD -- Mayo Clinic Jacksonville. Jacksonville, FL (Differential protein and gene expression by digital spatial profiling in neurons with synuclein oligomers or Lewy bodies)

  • Martine Tetreault, PhD -- Centre Hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada (Regulation of aberrant immunity in Parkinson's disease by Stearoyl-CoA Desaturase)

  • Nicolas Tritsch, PhD -- New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY (Revealing how striatal circuits gradually change as dopamine neurons degenerate)

  • Hisashi Umemori, MD, PhD -- Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, MA (The nigrostriatal-specific dopaminergic synapse organizer and Parkinson's disease)

  • Laura Volpicelli-Daley, PhD -- University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL (mGluR4 activation to rescue amygdala defects caused by aggregated alpha-synuclein)

  • Scott Waldman, MD, PhD -- Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA (Targeting GUCY2C for Neuroprotection in Experimental Parkinson's Disease)

In addition, continued funding was granted for eight APDA Centers for Advanced Research to support various programs including research trainees, clinical fellowship programs, early-stage discovery programs and later-stage clinical translation. These Centers facilitate research which is at the forefront of investigation into the causes, treatments and ultimately cure for PD. The current APDA Centers for Advanced Research are:

  • Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA

  • Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA

  • Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, FL

  • Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Brunswick, NJ

  • The Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA

  • University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine, Birmingham, AL

  • University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, PA

  • Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO

"The work being done as a result of the grants in this new funding cycle will have an incredible impact on the world of PD," states Chambers. "This work is only possible because of the steadfast support of our generous APDA donors."
Learn more about these grantees and the exciting work they are doing and browse all APDA-funded research by visiting http://www.apdaparkinson.org/research/what-we-fund/.

Researchers and physicians who are interested in applying for APDA funding can visit http://www.apdaparkinson.org/research for details on the 2023-2024 funding opportunities. Letters of Intent for the 2023-2024 grant cycle can be submitted starting September 28, 2022 with a deadline of December 2, 2022.

Those who want to support APDA's critical research with a donation can do so by visiting http://www.apdaparkinson.org and clicking the DONATE button or mailing a check payable to APDA to: APDA, PO Box 61420, Staten Island, NY 10306.

The American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA) is the largest grassroots network dedicated to fighting Parkinson's disease (PD) and works tirelessly to help the more than one million people in the United States with PD live life to the fullest in the face of this chronic, neurological disorder. Founded in 1961, APDA has raised and invested more than $226 million to provide outstanding patient services and educational programs, elevate public awareness about the disease, and support research designed to unlock the mysteries of PD and ultimately put an end to this disease. To join us in the fight against Parkinson's disease and to learn more about the support APDA provides nationally through our network of Chapters and Information & Referral (I&R) Centers, as well as our national Research Program and Centers for Advanced Research, please visit us at http://www.apdaparkinson.org.

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Media Contact

Eloise Caggiano, American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA), 718-737-8151, ecaggiano@apdaparkinson.org

SOURCE American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA)