The Michael J. Fox Foundation Funds Search for Parkinson's Disease Blood Test

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The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research has awarded Durin Technologies, Inc., a grant of $351,200 to expand the development of Durin’s novel blood test that can detect the presence of Parkinson’s disease. The test was created by Robert Nagele, PhD, a professor of medicine and the director of the Biomarker Discovery Center at RowanSOM, and the founder of Durin Technologies.

The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research has awarded Durin Technologies, Inc., a grant of $351,200 to expand the development of Durin’s novel blood test that can detect the presence of Parkinson’s disease. The test was created by Robert Nagele, PhD, a professor of medicine and the director of the Biomarker Discovery Center at the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine, and the founder of Durin Technologies. In a pilot study published last year, the test was remarkably accurate (93.1 percent sensitivity and 100 percent specificity) in detecting specific autoantibody biomarkers that indicate the presence of Parkinson’s disease. 

“Using current diagnostic methods, it can take months or even years to make an accurate Parkinson’s diagnosis, and by that time, at least a third of the neurons in the affected area of the brain will have already died,” Nagele said. “A reliable blood test for Parkinson’s would have a huge impact on patient care and on research into potential disease-modifying medications. Without the support of The Michael J. Fox Foundation, however, we would be hard pressed to find the resources that would enable us to move this technology forward.”           

“The reliance on clinical observation of Parkinson’s disease is a hindrance in accurate and early disease detection,” said Katie Kopil, PhD, associate director of Research Programs at The Michael J. Fox Foundation. “The Foundation has invested in efforts to identify biomarkers to measure Parkinson’s onset and progression and to develop and test new therapeutics. Durin Technologies’ identification of these autoantibody biomarkers offers great possibilities in this arena.” 

Because initial symptoms can be barely noticeable, Parkinson’s disease can be difficult to diagnose in its early stages. Despite that, Parkinson’s is the second most common neurodegenerative disease among older adults with approximately 60,000 new cases annually in the United States. 

The newly funded study will seek to duplicate Durin’s initial findings and then achieve similar results in a larger sample size. In Parkinson’s, as neurons die, the immune system increases production of autoantibodies to clear the resulting cellular debris. In a recently published study, a research team led by Nagele showed that human blood contains more than one thousand autoantibodies that recognize antigens produced by organs and tissues throughout the body – including the brain – making them ideal targets as diagnostic biomarkers for a wide variety of diseases.

Durin Technologies, Inc., was founded in 2010 with the goal of developing new diagnostics and therapeutic agents for use in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. Employing exclusively licensed technologies, the company intends to commercialize products to help patients suffering from Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other related medical conditions.

As the world's largest private funder of Parkinson's research, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research is dedicated to accelerating a cure for Parkinson's disease and improved therapies for those living with the condition today. The Foundation pursues its goals through an aggressively funded, highly targeted research program coupled with active global engagement of scientists, Parkinson's patients, business leaders, clinical trial participants, donors and volunteers.  In addition to funding more than $325 million in research to date, the Foundation has fundamentally altered the trajectory of progress toward a cure. Operating at the hub of worldwide Parkinson's research, the Foundation forges groundbreaking collaborations with industry leaders, academic scientists and government research funders; increases the flow of participants into Parkinson's disease clinical trials with its online tool, Fox Trial Finder; promotes Parkinson's awareness through high-profile advocacy, events and outreach; and coordinates the grassroots involvement of thousands of Team Fox members around the world.

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