Download a PDF of Parkinson Canada Research Program Awards for the current cycle.

Research Area: Biomarkers
Peering into red blood cells to diagnose Parkinson’s
Hélèna Denis
PhD candidate
Centre Hospitalier de l’Université Laval
Graduate Student Award
$30,000 over 2 years

At Laval University, PhD candidate Hélèna Denis is looking deep inside the blood cells of people with Parkinson’s disease. She’s examining the connection between proteins linked to Parkinson’s and small pieces of cell membrane, called extracellular vesicles that can emerge from any cell. Eventually, her work could be used to accelerate diagnosis, identify the stages or progression of the disease, and test how well new treatments work.


Research Area: Biomarkers
Putting saliva to good use
Dr. Mervyn Gornitsky
Professor Emeritus
McGill University
Pilot Project Grant
$49,200 over 1 year

If researchers could find a non-invasive, physiological tool to diagnose Parkinson’s disease, it might be easier to start treatment earlier. At McGill University, Dr. Mervyn Gornitsky believes he has done just that—by measuring the quantity of a protein called heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) in samples of the saliva of people who have Parkinson’s. Gornitsky, an oral surgeon, is using his biobank of 4000 saliva samples to confirm the test’s ability to determine the presence of Parkinson’s in people who are in the early stages of the disease, even before they show tremors, stiffness or other motor control symptoms.


Research Area: Biomarkers
Measuring pupils to chart brain health
Po Yueh (Jeff) Huang
PhD candidate
Queen’s University
Graduate Student Award
$30,000 over two years

One of the difficult aspects of Parkinson’s disease is the lack of easy diagnostic tests. At Queen’s University, PhD candidate Po Yueh (Jeff) Huang is measuring eye movements and the size of people’s pupils as they perform cognitive tasks to examine the link between the eye and neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson’s. By correlating pupil size with clinical markers, he hopes to develop a set of non-invasive ways to detect Parkinson’s early, and measure whether drugs or other interventions are effective in treating people with the disease.


Research Area: Biomarkers
REM sleep behaviour disorder and Parkinson’s
Dr. Penny MacDonald
Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging
Western University
Pedaling for Parkinson’s in honour of Dr. Robert Lorne Alexander
Pilot Project Grant
$32,984 over 1 year

Most people with REM sleep behaviour disorder (RBD), which makes them act out their dreams, later develop Parkinson’s disease or related conditions such as multiple systems atrophy or Lewy body dementia. At Western University, Dr. Penny MacDonald, a neurologist and Canada Research Chair, is using imaging technology to check for structural changes in the striatum region of the brains of people with this sleep disorder. If she finds these changes, they could be used to predict who will develop Parkinson’s, and start treatment before motor symptoms emerge.


Research Area: Biomarkers
Helping Parkinson’s patients confront the problems their treatment causes
Dr. Douglas Munoz
Queen’s University
Funded by Pedaling for Parkinson’s in honour of John Bannister
Pilot Project Grant
$50,000 over 1 year

A combined assessment of eye movements and genetic factors promises to shed new light on drug-related problems in Parkinson’s disease patients. While medication to boost dopamine levels in the nervous system can restore movement control to many patients, this sharp increase in dopamine can also lead to unwanted cognitive changes such as impulsive behaviour followed by an equally sharp crash and general lethargy. An expanded study will look for indicators to identify individuals at risk of entering this cycle.


Research Area: Causes
Honing in on proteins
Marisa Cressatti
PhD candidate
McGill University
Funded in partnership with
Fonds de Recherche du Québec - Santé
Graduate Student Award
$20,000 over two years

Research into the causes of Parkinson’s disease increasingly focuses on the interaction among proteins in brain cells. At McGill University, PhD candidate Marisa Cressatti studies the interaction between two proteins, called alpha-synuclein and heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1). If she discovers that HO-1 can accelerate the spread and accumulation of alpha-synuclein, the protein found in clumps in the brain cells of people with Parkinson’s, researchers could target HO-1 as part of a new drug or gene therapy.


Research Area: Causes
Unmasking molecular culprits in Parkinson’s disease
Mohamed Eldeeb
McGill University
Basic Research Fellowship
$100,000 over 2 years

Mohamed Eldeeb, a researcher at McGill University, is looking for molecules that regulate a crucial gene linked to the onset of Parkinson’s disease. Using the advanced genome editing approach known as CRISPR, he intends to identify the particular agents that allow cells in the brain to become compromised, so that they no longer produce the dopamine necessary to control the body’s muscle movements. In this way, he hopes to reveal which molecules might make the best targets for therapy to prevent this loss of function.


Research Area: Causes
Sleep pattern points the way to Parkinson’s
Dr. Ziv Gan-Or
Assistant Professor
McGill University
Funded in partnership with Pedaling for Parkinson’s
in Honour of Dr. John Newall
New Investigator Award
$90,000 over 2 years

Individuals with a particular sleep disorder are much more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease, a connection that has provided a unique research opportunity for Dr. Ziv Gan-Or, an assistant professor at McGill University and a researcher in the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital. He has recruited more than 1,000 of these individuals from around the world for a study to examine the genetic factors that might link their condition with neurodegeneration. The goal is to identify a genetic marker that would indicate the early onset of Parkinson’s disease in any individual, so that it could be treated as soon as possible.


Research Area: Causes
Looking into the cells of fruit flies could reveal the future of Parkinson treatment for humans
Paul Marcogliese
Baylor College of Medicine
Basic Research Fellowship
$100,000 over 2 years

At a specialized laboratory in the Baylor College of Medicine, postdoctoral associate Paul Marcogliese is studying a malfunction in multiple genetic models of Parkinson’s disease in fruit flies. In addition to indicating genetic abnormalities that could indicate an individual’s prospects of developing this condition, the work could reveal targets for potential drug treatments to correct this problem, preventing not only the loss of cell function but perhaps also the onset of the disease.


Research Area: Causes
Immune system activity could point the way to the development of Parkinson’s disease
Diana Matheoud
Adjunct Professor
Université de Montréal
New Investigator Award
$90,000 over two years

Université de Montréal researcher Diana Matheoud has identified the way cells respond to infection or stress as a potential indicator of the onset of Parkinson’s disease. Genetic mutations associated with this neurodegenerative condition also affect this immune system process. More specifically, the effects extend to mitochondria, key structures within cells that provide vital energy for their functioning, which are directly compromised by Parkinson’s.