Disease groups have played an increasingly important role in drug development--financing some important discovery and clinical trial work--and the biomarkers field is seeing the same steadily expanding role for nonprofits. The latest example: The Michael J. Fox Foundation has budgeted $40 million over the next five years to pinpoint biomarkers that can highlight disease progression in Parkinson's.
"Currently, Parkinson's patients have access only to treatments that temporarily alleviate symptoms. If a biomarker is found, researchers will have a vitally needed tool in the quest for disease-modifying therapies that can do more than simply mask symptoms of the disease," said Katie Hood, CEO of The Michael J. Fox Foundation. "While there is no guarantee that validated biomarkers will result from the PPMI study, their importance to therapeutic progress requires that we accept this risk." The Parkinson's Progression Markers Initiative will be led by Principal Investigator Kenneth Marek, President and Senior Scientist, Institute for Neurodegenerative Disorders, New Haven, CT.
The study will be carried out at 18 sites in the United States and Europe (see list in fact sheet below). It will track 400 people newly diagnosed with Parkinson's and 200 who do not have the disease. Recruitment of study volunteers is now under way at six sites, with all sites expected to be recruiting by the end of this year.
Anyone who agrees to participate in the study will contribute blood, urine and spinal fluid samples while undergoing regular brain scans and behavioral assessments.