Aligning Science Across Parkinson's (ASAP), a coordinated research initiative led by Nobel laureate Dr. Randy Schekman and Dr. Ekemini Riley, has announced a first round of grants totaling $161 million in support of Parkinson's research.
Conceived in 2017 as a joint project of the Milken Institute Center for Strategic Philanthropy and the Sergey Brin Family Foundation and launched last year, ASAP aims to support multidisciplinary collaboration, generate research-enabling resources, and democratize data in four areas: the biology of PD-associated genetics, neuro-immune interactions, circuitry and brain-body interactions, and disease progression. Administered by the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Disease, inaugural ASAP Collaborative Research Network (CRN) grants were awarded to twenty-one research teams led by ninety-six lead investigators — nearly a third of whom are women — representing sixty institutions in eleven countries.
The fourteen projects focused on the biology of PD-associated genetics include "Cellular mechanism of LRRK2 in health and disease," led by Samara Reck-Peterson (University of California, San Diego); "IMPACT-PD — Implications of polyamine and glucosylceramide transport in Parkinson's Disease," led by Peter Vangheluwe (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven); and "Mapping the PD brain: Oligomer-driven functional genomics," led by Nicholas Wood (University College London). The seven projects studying neuro-immune interactions include "From cancer associations to altered immunity in the pathogenesis of Parkinson's Disease," led by Xiqun Chen (Massachusetts General Hospital) and "Role of PD-related proteins as drivers of disease through modulation of innate and adaptive immunity," led by Michel Desjardins (University of Montreal).
"The goal of this project is to understand the basic cell biology and structure of this really fundamentally important LRRK2 molecule," said Reck-Peterson, whose team received a $7.2 million grant. "If we can find out why LRRK2 — when it doesn't work — causes Parkinson's disease, that's really the ultimate goal. When you are thinking about designing a drug, you really need to understand all the details of the parts in order to engineer therapeutics."
(Photo credit: University of California, San Diego)