Pennsylvania Researcher Receives $240,000 for Parkinson’s Research

Funded by American Brain Foundation and Parkinson’s Disease Foundation

PHILADELPHIA – A Pennsylvania researcher will receive $240,000 to continue her research into Parkinson’s disease—a common neurodegenerative disorder with no known cure or treatment to slow its progression—through the Clinician-Scientist Development Three-Year Award in Parkinson’s Disease funded by the American Brain Foundation and the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation. The award was presented in Philadelphia during the American Academy of Neurology’s 66th Annual Meeting, the world’s largest meeting of neurologists. Amber D. Van Laar, MD, a fellow in the Comprehensive Movement Disorders Clinic at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, received this award for her investigation into gene therapy for Parkinson’s disease. Current therapies are aimed at alleviating the symptoms of late stages of Parkinson’s disease, which can include significant disability, a heavy burden on caregivers and increased mortality. “While these treatments can provide benefit to daily activities, they do not slow or halt the inevitable loss of neurons that die in Parkinson’s disease,” said Van Laar. “In spite of intensive research, neurologists currently have little to offer in regards to delaying the progression of Parkinson’s disease. Thus, there remains a critical need for therapies to slow or stop neuronal degeneration in Parkinson’s disease.” Van Laar’s research focuses on determining whether increasing the PARK2 gene, which controls a protein called parkin, can protect neurons from damage. “Ultimately, these findings could lead to a novel therapy for Parkinson’s disease that would slow the disease course and provide a more effective treatment for this debilitating disorder,” Van Laar said. The three-year award will consist of an annual salary of $75,000 plus $5,000 per year in educational expenses. Clinical research is the fundamental transition stage between discovery and treatment. Clinical research provides the scientific basis for all forms of care, addresses patient and caregiver needs and is the backbone for drug development and cost-effectiveness studies needed to improve lives. Fellowships provide recipients with up to three years of “protected time,” with salary that allows them to continue important research projects. "In the search for the cure for Parkinson’s disease, a critical component is highly-trained physician-scientists who can bring their expertise to the search for new treatments,” said James Beck, PhD, Vice President of Scientific Affairs for the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation. “The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation is proud to support Dr. Van Laar’s work in partnership with the American Brain Foundation, an organization which shares our goal of ensuring there remains a steady supply of brilliant young scientists who can dedicate themselves to creating a world without Parkinson's disease." The award is sponsored by the American Brain Foundation and the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation. April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month. Learn more about Parkinson’s disease at About the American Brain Foundation: The American Brain Foundation supports crucial research and education to discover causes, improved treatments, and cures for the brain and other nervous system diseases. One in six people is affected by brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, traumatic brain injury, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, autism, and epilepsy. For more information about the American Brain Foundation and how you can support research, visit or visit us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and YouTube.

About the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation: The Parkinson's Disease Foundation® (PDF®) is a leading national presence in Parkinson's disease research, education and public advocacy. PDF is working for the nearly one million people in the US who live with Parkinson's disease by funding promising scientific research while supporting people living with Parkinson's through educational programs and services. Since its founding in 1957, PDF has dedicated over $100 million to fund the work of leading scientists throughout the world and over $42 million to support national education and advocacy programs.


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