On 22 August 2023, Anne-Marie and Patrick Demoucelle, together with several Demoucelle Parkinson Charity volunteers, met with representatives of The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF), including Miss Courtney Orr, Senior Associate Director, and Bradford Casey, PhD, Associate Director of Research Programs.
Main topics for discussion were recent, exciting developments in Parkinson’s research, prospects for the coming months and years, and how to raise both public awareness and funding for promising research.
The American guests were particularly enthusiastic about the discovery earlier this year of a biomarker, opening a new chapter for Parkinson’s research — with the promise of better drug development and care for all people and families living with the disease. With the new test to detect abnormal alpha-synuclein in spinal fluid, validated by MJFF’s Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI), researchers can objectively define and monitor this pathology for the first time in the living body. The guests explained that the discovery will help transform how trials are done, potentially decrease time to new treatments and move the field a step closer to preventing Parkinson’s disease (PD). Dr. Casey and Miss Orr also spoke about significant progress in Alzheimer’s research with possible spin offs for Parkinson’s modelling and Parkinson’s drugs entering clinical testing.
New types of technologies in the development of drugs and new technologies in bio-medical research more broadly, such and in stem cell research and the imaging of what goes on within single cells, were described as great leaps forward that could be built upon further going forward.
The American guests noted that philanthropy was having a major impact on Parkinson’s research, transforming who was working in the field, how much work they can get done and how fast. Recent scientific breakthroughs have encouraged a clear uptick in support, both critical high-risk and high-reward projects that others can’t or won’t.
It was noted that there had never been a more exciting time in Parkinson’s research, not only because of the discovery of a biomarker but also because of all the data that were coming in. Early investments in Parkinson’s research had brought many new drugs to trial and greatly increased the understanding of the biology of Parkinson’s and its different causes. Several promising drugs in the clinical pipeline today could well produce results in a handful of years.
Finally, there was a lively exchange on communication and fundraising challenges and strategies, where the American guests were happy to share their own insights and expertise, but also to comment on some of the thinking by their European interlocutors.
Miss Courtney Orr, Senior Associate Director, and
Bradford Casey, PhD, Associate Director of Research Programs
The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research