The Michael J. Fox Foundation has announced grants totaling $5 million in support of global Parkinson's genetics research.
Funded in part by the Edmond J. Safra Foundation, the grants will support an expansion of genetic research in Africa, East Asia, and India, with the aim of better understanding the role of genes in the onset of Parkinson's and its progression, the cellular effects of the disease, and the development of new therapies to address it. Since 1997, when the first genetic mutation associated with Parkinson's was identified, more than eighty genetic differences that increase the risk of Parkinson's have been identified. But while genetic research has led to improved understanding of the disease, most of that research has been conducted on people of European descent.
To that end, investigators at the University of Lagos in Nigeria, University College London (UCL), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the U.S., in partnership with the International Parkinson's Disease Genetics Consortium, will expand a registry of four thousand people with Parkinson's and four thousand control volunteers in Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania and coordinate the sharing of samples and genetic sequencing of those samples. In India, partners at the Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology, the Institute for Clinical Epidemiology and Applied Biometry at the University of Tübingen in Germany, and academic centers across India will gather and analyze data and samples from ten thousand people with Parkinson's and ten thousand control volunteers. And in East Asia, researchers, in partnership with Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, UCL, and NIH, will leverage genetic sequencing on existing samples from sixty-two hundred people with Parkinson's and recruit forty-four hundred control volunteers.
"While the field has made significant strides in genetic research, we know we have much more to learn about the changes in DNA that lead to Parkinson's disease and impact its progression," said MJFF senior vice president of research programs Brian Fiske. "This is an all-star initiative with world-class geneticists, clinic networks, and study volunteers coming together to paint a global picture of Parkinson’s and work toward cures for everyone."