The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research has announced a $2 million prize to encourage the development of an imaging tracer for alpha-synuclein, a clumping protein that scientists believe causes symptoms associated with Parkinson's disease.
The Alpha-Synuclein Imaging Prize will be awarded to a team of researchers that develops a viable, selective alpha-synuclein tracer and agrees to make it available to the Parkinson's research community. An image tracer would enable researchers working on the diseases to measure alpha-synuclein in the brain of a living person, which could lead to earlier and more precise diagnoses of Parkinson’s, better tracking of its progression, and more efficient and effective testing of new drugs. Five therapies designed to prevent or degrade alpha-synuclein clumps (called Lewy bodies) are currently in clinical trials, with others poised to enter human testing over the next few years.
In 2011, MJFF established a public-private Alpha-synuclein Imaging Consortium to begin work toward an alpha-synuclein tracer. If the consortium is the first to build compelling evidence of a viable, selective tracer, members of the team, excluding MJFF staff, will be awarded the prize.
"The ability to image alpha-synuclein in the brain would be a game-changer for Parkinson’s translational research and would rapidly accelerate testing of therapies to slow or stop disease progression," said Jamie Eberling, MJFF director of research programs.