The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research has announced a $7.5 million gift from hedge fund billionaire Kenneth C. Griffin to launch a program aimed at developing a groundbreaking imaging tool for Parkinson's.
The $10 million Ken Griffin Alpha-synuclein Imaging Competition will fund efforts to develop an imaging tracer that can visualize the alpha-synuclein protein in the living brain. Nearly all patients with Parkinson's have clumps of the protein in their brains, which, according to many scientists, causes harm to brain cells and results in Parkinson's symptoms; however, the protein can only be detected through post-mortem tissue analysis. The ability to visualize alpha-synuclein and track Parkinson's pathology in the living brain would open new avenues in both research and care and lead to targeted drug development and better disease monitoring methods.
To accelerate the development of a selective alpha-synuclein PET tracer, the program will award a total of $8.5 million over two years to as many as three teams, with an emphasis on multidisciplinary teams and collaborations between academic and industry groups that have access to diverse compound libraries. The team that demonstrates the most progress will be awarded an additional $1.5 million to continue its efforts.
"If we have the imaging capability to observe the pathology that arises from protein-misfolding in real time and understand how drugs are impacting people in real time," Griffin, whose father was diagnosed with Parkinson's several years ago, told Fortune, "that would be a major advance."