29 october 2009

£5 million to study how Parkinson’s develops


Photo of Richard Wade-Martins, DPAG
Dr Richard Wade-Martins leads The Oxford Parkinson’s Disease Consortium.

The Oxford Parkinson’s Disease Consortium, a team of world-class researchers at the University of Oxford led by Dr Richard Wade-Martins, has been awarded £5 million over five years for new research into how Parkinson’s Disease develops and progresses.

The Parkinson’s Disease Society today announced that they are the winners of The Monument Discovery Award, a new award funded by The Monument Trust, one of the Sainsbury Family Trusts.

Scientists from across the UK were invited to apply for the Discovery Award, with the Oxford group chosen from a shortlist of seven UK research teams by an international review panel.

Dr Wade-Martins of the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics said: ‘We are absolutely thrilled to have been chosen as the Discovery Award winners. Our team of 13 include world-class scientists from the University of Oxford and two Medical Research Council Units working across a number of different disciplines, including genetics, neurology and imaging.’

The late Simon Sainsbury, who established The Monument Trust, had Parkinson’s. This is why the condition is of special interest to the Trustees, who approached the Parkinson’s Disease Society with an offer to fund innovative new research to find a cure. The funding is the largest single trust donation that the Society has ever received.

The researchers will look at three key areas of Parkinson’s with the aim of discovering how Parkinson’s develops and progresses, what the early signals for Parkinson’s are and to pave the way for new and better treatments. Finding a way to diagnose Parkinson’s much earlier, combined with more effective treatments, could slow, halt or even reverse the progression of the condition.

We will undertake a new study to better understand the very earliest steps in developing Parkinson’s Disease.

Dr Richard Wade-Martins

‘We will undertake a new study to better understand the very earliest steps in developing Parkinson’s Disease with the eventual aim of generating drugs to halt the disease before symptoms appear,’ said Dr Wade-Martins. ‘We will be able to take full advantage of the ongoing revolution in human genetics and recent advances in stem cell technology to uncover the genes underlying risk to Parkinson’s. We have access to sophisticated analytical and clinical testing facilities, including one of the most powerful magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) magnets in the country here at Oxford.’

The scientists will set out to:

  • Identify specific molecules in cells and use brain imaging techniques to predict whether a person will get Parkinson’s
  • Identify and study alterations in new genes which may be responsible for Parkinson’s developing
  • Create new animal models with the symptoms of Parkinson’s to aid the development of new drugs and treatments.

Dr Wade-Martins’ team will recruit 1,700 people with Parkinson’s, 300 relatives who may be at-risk for the disease, and 300 people without Parkinson’s of similar ages from the Thames Valley area for the study.

Steve Ford, Parkinson’s Disease Society Chief Executive, said: ‘We are the largest charitable funder of Parkinson’s research in the UK with an international reputation in research funding. We are passionate about finding a cure for Parkinson’s and our research strategy is focused on this ambition. We are totally dependent on voluntary income and there are so many more avenues to explore, however, this very generous donation from The Monument Trust will enable us to take a major step forward towards this goal. These are exciting times.’