New priorities in Parkinson’s research

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At the end of March, Parkinson Canada hosted a two-day discussion on the current and future states of Parkinson’s research.

The meetings brought together clinicians, researchers, people living with Parkinson’s and other Parkinson’s organizations, with the aim to achieve the following:

  • Identify current and emerging trends in basic and clinical Parkinson’s research
  • Explore strategies to leverage our research investments and increase impact, possibly through partnerships with other Parkinson’s organizations

Being sure that people impacted by Parkinson’s were involved in the discussion was an important part of these meetings and it was a key takeaway. Resoundingly, the Parkinson community agreed that having people with Parkinson’s involved at all stages of research was important to its success. At Parkinson Canada, we strongly agree and are working on plans to formalize your role in the research process.

Day 1: Current and future state of Parkinson’s research

The first day was dedicated to understanding Parkinson Canada’s current research program as well as trends/future opportunities in Parkinson’s research. Drs. Susan Fox and Maxime Rousseaux presented a clinician scientist’s and basic scientist’s perspectives, respectively.

Both researchers spoke about the value of biomarkers to diagnose and begin treatment of Parkinson’s in its earliest stages. Dr. Fox discussed treatment of non-motor symptoms and individualized therapies since Parkinson’s can vary so much from person to person. Dr. Rousseaux stressed the importance of including the people with Parkinson’s as partners in research throughout the research continuum and the value of collaboration between researchers and institutions.

Another important theme was the value of supporting clinical fellowships. All areas of our current research program were prioritized, but the audience felt strongly about supporting clinical fellowships. With wait times to see a specialist at high levels throughout the country and supporting clinical fellows is one way to make sure that people with Parkinson’s have access to timely a diagnosis and care. Fifty percent of attendees rated clinical fellowships as the most impactful part of the current Parkinson Canada Research Program.

Day 2: Accelerating the development of Parkinson’s therapies

The second day was dedicated to exploring the role health charities can play in accelerating the development and commercialization of Parkinson’s therapies through partnerships and collaborations. There were presentations from Parkinson’s UK, Milken Institute, and The Cure Parkinson’s Trust about their innovative partnerships and collaborations that are currently underway. They are doing interesting things in terms of partnership with the pharmaceutical industry and other organizations and there was a lot for us to think about.

The value of the Canadian Open Parkinson Network was highlighted. The network is currently funded in partnership with Brain Canada and plays a key role in supporting new discoveries. A new partnership with Critical Path for Parkinson’s was discussed. Both projects help expand the impact of Parkinson’s research in Canada nationally and internationally.

Next steps

The information gathered from these presentations will be used to inform Parkinson Canada’s Research and Clinical Advisory Committee, as well as the Board of Directors, as they consider the research agenda for Parkinson Canada in the future. The first day helped set the stage on what the priority issues were in Parkinson’s. The second day presented new ways to think about how we’re investing in research including opportunities to make a larger impact faster.

In the coming months, we’ll use this information to make sure that the Parkinson Canada Research Program is maximizing your investment in research. Most importantly, we’ll continue to seek ways to put the person with Parkinson’s at the centre of research, and of everything that we do.

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