Google co-founder Sergey Brin has been betting on some of the titans of the biopharma world to advance new treatments against Parkinson's disease. And Brin, who carries a gene for the disease, is willing to spend a considerable amount of his multibillion-dollar fortune for a cure.
"If I felt it was guaranteed to cure Parkinson's disease a check for a billion dollars would be the easiest one I have written," Brin told Bloomberg's Robert Langreth. "Pretty much everybody in the world has or will have some serious condition. How much is it worth to you to have that condition be potentially curable?"
Brin has put some serious dollars behind the R&D efforts, spending $132 million so far to fund programs through the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research and discovery work at pharma giants Pfizer ($PFE) and GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK), Bloomberg reports. Brin and his mother carry a gene linked to 1-2% of cases of Parkinson's, a poorly understood neurological disorder that leads to shaking and early death, and which affects about 1 million Americans.
Brin has channeled significant resources into work on drugs that could target the specific Parkinson's gene LRRK2, which is associated with a brain cell-killing protein. Through his investment in a vast database of genetic profiles on Parkinson's patients housed at the personal genomics outfit 23andMe, which his wife Anne Wojcicki runs, Brin's dollars could spur sharing of genetic information to benefit patients with many of the known triggers of the disease.
With genetic data from Parkinson's patients, drug developers aim to provide a host of new targeted treatments that can begin to impede progression of the disease, which leads to the death of dopamine-producing cells that play a role in regulating movement. There's a lot of research and discovery work to be done before such treatments become available, and Brin's role as financier could be crucial during the risky period when some pharma groups blanche.
- read Bloomberg's article