31 January, 2013
US$5 million initial investment into projects to find Parkinson’s Disease biomarkers.
At the end of 2012, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke launched the Parkinson’s Disease Biomarkers Program in an effort to improve researcher collaboration and patient involvement in the ongoing search for Parkinson’s Disease (PD) biomarkers.
The program will fund projects to investigate tools for the discovery, identification and validation of biomarkers, as well as enabling the sharing of resources and data across the PD community.
Approximately 1 million people in the USA are affected by PD, which is characterised by symptoms such as tremors, rigidity and slowness, all of which deteriorate over time. Some symptoms of PD, such as the accumulation of Lewy bodies in the brain, are not observable until after death, which means that timely clinical diagnosis of the disease is challenging. The discovery of biomarkers to diagnose and monitor the condition from an earlier stage would provide a means to quantify the results of clinical trials, therefore encouraging the development of new therapeutic agents and enabling more effective use of existing therapies.
The launch of this program saw the investment of US$5 million into nine different research teams, with projects investigating a range of fields, including the development of new statistical tools, validation of existing potential biomarkers and using a range of techniques to discover new ones. The PD Biomarkers Program is also being integrated with the current Parkinson’s Biomarkers study at the Harvard Neurodiscovery Center.
The Data Management Resource, an online data-sharing platform, has been developed by the National Institutes of Health’s Center for Information Technology, and those researchers receiving grants are required to share their results. Researchers that are not associated with the programme are able to submit their own data and samples, as well as having access to those held by the scheme. This database promotes multidisciplinary investigation and encourages newcomers to the field, and further system tools are expected to be released by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders in order to accelerate research in this area.