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The Michael J. FoxFoundation (MJFF; New York) reported $2 million in grants awarded under the third round of Biomarkers, its program supporting the discovery of objective biomarkers, or “biological fingerprints,” of Parkinson’s disease.

“Biomarkers remain a priority for the foundation because the ability to definitively diagnose PD and to measure its progression is inextricably linked to the ability to conduct better, faster clinical trials. In particular, biomarkers would greatly accelerate the development of neuroprotective therapies that could slow or stop the disease, something of tremendous importance to PD patients and our Foundation,” said Katie Hood, CEO of MJFF.

Four of five projects under the 2007 initiative are extensions of projects that showed distinct promise when they were funded in earlier rounds of the Biomarkers program.

A team at DiaGenic (Oslo, Norway), under the leadership of Anders Lonneborg, PHD, will explore gene expression as an early detector of Parkinson’s, building on exciting discoveries by past Biomarkers awardee Clemens Scherzer, PhD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital (Boston).

Scherzer developed a set of gene expression markers from blood of PD patients that hold potential to be further developed into a simple blood test for Parkinson’s. The new project will expand the work of Scherzer’s original project, analyzing 500 genes previously found to be differentially expressed in PD blood. The aim is to distill results into a smaller set of markers. These markers will be tested for their ability to distinguish PD from healthy and other neurological disease controls.

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