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Posted: December 12, 2007

Michael J. Fox Foundation launches Rapid Response Innovation Awards 2008 following strong inaugural year response

(Nanowerk News) Having funded $2 million total to support 27 high-risk, high-reward approaches to Parkinson's disease research in the first year of its Rapid Response Innovation Awards (RRIA) initiative, The Michael J. Fox Foundation today announced that it will commit $2 million to a second round of funding in 2008. RRIA is designed to ensure that researchers can pursue good ideas without delay. Under this program the Foundation accepts proposals on a rolling basis with no deadline, makes funding decisions within six weeks of application and speeds up to $75,000 to one-year basic, preclinical or clinical research projects in any Parkinson's-relevant arena.
"RRIA funds 'flashes of insight' in real time, hopefully helping to open new avenues for PD therapy development," said Katie Hood, interim CEO of The Michael J. Fox Foundation.
To accommodate these "flashes of insight," the program's criteria and application process are designed with novelty and speed in mind.
Todd Sherer, PhD, vice president of research programs at MJFF, said: "We set up RRIA to attract new researchers to Parkinson's and to provide support for unorthodox ideas -- the sort that could significantly impact PD treatment, but that may have little or no preliminary data, making it hard or impossible to find traditional funding to carry them out. Based on the strong response from the scientific community in 2007, it's clear this program is filling a need."
The program is designed to provide funding for strong ideas being tested for the first time. Unlike other Foundation initiatives, RRIA allows for the submission of applications at any time of year. There is no pre-proposal stage, and the standard application has been shortened to three pages. Additionally, postdoctoral researchers are permitted to apply as principal investigators under this initiative provided the head of their lab serves as Administrative PI to assist with the provision of institutional documents and sign the award contract.
Projects funded in 2008 include:
  • A project testing whether isradipine, a high-blood-pressure drug already approved for use in humans, protects dopamine neurons in an animal model of Parkinson's disease;
  • Development of nanoparticle technology as a non-viral gene therapy technique that could help overcome the delivery challenges of getting PD therapeutics past the blood-brain barrier;
  • A project to test the Braak Hypothesis, which posits that sporadic Parkinson's may begin not in the central nervous system but in the enteric, or gastrointestinal, nervous system -- knowledge that would provide revolutionary insights into the pathogenesis and progression of PD; and
  • Initial work to determine whether low levels of a gene called ST13 predict risk of future PD (which could lead to the development of a practical, widely available blood test for early and objective diagnosis of Parkinson's disease).
  • A complete list of projects funded under RRIA 2007, including researcher bios and grant abstracts, is available at http://www.michaeljfox.org.
    Founded in 2000, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research is dedicated to ensuring the development of a cure for Parkinson's disease within this decade through an aggressively funded research agenda. The Foundation has funded $100 million in research to date.
    Source: Michael J. Fox Foundation
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