Sunday, May 23, 2010

An Interview with the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research

When we began our research for Health Week we all knew that we wanted to devote a video to the fight against Parkinson’s Disease. We were fortunate enough to hook up with the Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. Below is my interview with Shelia Kelly- the Director of Special Events and Team Fox.

What is The Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and why was it created?

The Michael J. Fox Foundation was founded in 2000 with a single goal: to find a cure for Parkinson’s disease. Since that time, MJFF has grown to be the largest private funder of Parkinson’s research in the world. To date we’ve invested nearly $179 million in PD research.

But we aren’t just passive funders. MJFF does whatever it takes to advance the most promising therapeutic leads toward pharmacy shelves. We proactively manage the largest PD portfolio in the world. We prioritize key studies, insist that researchers share results and tee up partnerships across sectors. Our focus is on patients’ needs, clinical studies and better treatments.

What do you feel are common misconceptions about Parkinson's disease?

Although the average age of onset of Parkinson’s disease is 60, some people are diagnosed with the disease before the age of 40. Many younger people are living with early-onset PD.

Another misconception centers on the symptoms of PD. Although Parkinson’s disease is a movement disorder, there are also non-motor symptoms associated with the disease. These include depression, anxiety, constipation, sleep disturbances and decreased cognitive abilities.

How can the average person help you to find a cure for this disease?

Anyone can get involved in the fight against Parkinson’s disease. Team Fox is MJFF’s grassroots community of changemakers who are helping to raise awareness and funds for Parkinson’s research. Team Fox members are running marathons, flipping pancakes, climbing mountains, hosting concerts, golfing for a cure and more. Visit to join the team.

People can also help by spreading the word about MJFF’s efforts to find a cure. Join our Facebook page or Twitter community, sign up for our email newsletter and visit MJFF’s Web site to stay updated on our work.

Have there been strides made to conquer this disease in recent years?

We are excited about many promising avenues of research, from genes associated with PD to trophic factors, proteins that promote the survival, growth and function of neurons in the brain.

And we’re gearing up to launch a groundbreaking study to identify biomarkers of PD. Biomarkers are biological processes, like blood pressure and cholesterol levels, that can be measured to identify people at risk for a disease. Biomarkers of PD would help doctors diagnose the disease and measure disease progression while also helping make clinical studies more efficient. Improving clinical studies is an important step in finding better treatments.

Anything else you would like to add?

We couldn’t do this work without our generous and dedicated supporters and we are deeply appreciative of all of their efforts. And we make sure that funds raised are spent efficiently and on the most promising research. We’re proud to say that 86 cents of every dollar spent goes to research program efforts. We deliberately hold no endowment or major reserves. Our goal is to find a cure and put ourselves out of business.

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