$7.2m Grant Goes to UCSD & German Investigators Uncovering a Path to Eventual Parkinson’s Disease Cure: ASAP

$7.2m Grant Goes to UCSD & German Investigators Uncovering a Path to Eventual Parkinson’s Disease Cure ASAP

The Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF), via the Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s (ASAP) initiative, injected $7.2 million into an international team investigating the leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2), a protein linked to familial Parkinson’s disease. The three-year grant award supports five co-principal investigators working on different specialties, including three at University of California, San Diego, and two in Germany.

Context of this Funding & Stud(ies)

As reported in a recent press release, a team of researchers at UCSD published groundbreaking back-to-back studies describing unprecedented details of a protein linked to genetically inherited Parkinson’s disease. The researchers even produced the first visualizations of leucine-rich repeat kinase 2, or LRRK2, as visualized within its natural environment inside a cell, as well as the first high-resolution blueprint of the protein.

LRRK2 was discovered and linked to Parkinson’s in the early 2000s. Since then, researchers have pursued clues about its form and function. This new funding expands efforts led by UCSD using leading-edge cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) to produce previously unseen views of biologically important cells and molecules.

The Next Phase of Study

Now the Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s (ASAP) moves forward on the next phase of their investigation, focusing on the basic underlying mechanisms of Parkinson’s disease, the neurodegenerative disorder affecting millions of people.

What Drives ASAP?

This international team is committed to ultimately identifying and informing a path to a cure for Parkinson’s disease.

What is the Source of the Grant?

Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, an implementation partner for ASAP and issuer of the grant.

What’s the Goal of this Grant Award?

Samara Reck-Peterson, the lead principal investigator and professor at UCSD School of Medicine and Division of Biological Sciences, declared, “The goal of this project is to understand the basic cell biology and structure of this really fundamentally important LRRK2 molecule.

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator declared, “If we can find out why LRRK2—when it does 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.”

About ASAP

Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s (ASAP) seeks to foster collaboration and resources to better understand the underlying causes of Parkinson’s disease. The group champions a “three-part strategy,” including 1) Support (meaningful, interdisciplinary, collaboration); 2) Generate (research-enabling resources) and 3) Democratize data

The group follows four scientific themes, including 1) Biology of PD-Associated Genetics, 2) Neuro-Immune Interactions, 3) Circuitry and Brain-Body Interactions, and 4) Progression: A Cross-Cutting Theme.

The group is guided by four basic principles including 1) Collaboration, 2) Creativity, 3) Flexibility and 4) Transparency.

Collaborators include the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, Rapid Science, Stratos, Parkinson’s Foundation, Parkinson’s UK

Lead Research/Investigators

Samara Reck-Peterson, professor at UCSD School of Medicine and Division of Biological Sciences; The Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator

Andres Leschziner, UCSD

Elizabeth Villa, Assistant Professor, UCSD

Stefan Knapp, professor, Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany

Florian Stengal, Konstanz University, Germany