The funding, announced today by Federal Minister for Health, The Hon. Greg Hunt MP, will enable the Australian Parkinson’s Mission to identify desperately needed disease modifying drugs with the potential to slow the progression of Parkinson’s.
“We’re thrilled to announce $30 million over five years in funding from the Medical Research Future Fund. The Australian Parkinson’s Mission aligns with many of the priorities of the Medical Research Future Fund which includes addressing areas of unmet need, genomics and developing new treatments from drug repurposing,” says The Hon. Greg Hunt, MP.
“There are approximately 100,000 Australians living with Parkinson’s. Currently, there are no treatments that can slow, stop or cure the disease, and no ways for us to detect and diagnose the disease early. The Australian Parkinson’s Mission is a big step towards identifying the underlying cause of this devastating disease, treatments that stop the disease progressing and, ultimately, a cure.”
The Australian Parkinson’s Mission will test repurposed drugs in a world-first in Parkinson’s clinical trial design, which means effective treatments can be identified and fast tracked to people with the disease. Sequencing the genome of each patient, the Australian Parkinson’s Mission will establish a first step toward personalised medicine for Parkinson’s patients and will drive drug discovery in the future.
The Mission is an Australian-led international collaboration, developed by the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Shake It Up Australia Foundation, Parkinson’s Australia, The Cure Parkinson’s Trust and The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.
Head of the Neurodegeneration and Neurogenomics Program at the Garvan Institute, Associate Professor Antony Cooper, says, “The Australian Parkinson’s Mission employs an entirely new design for Parkinson’s. The findings from our clinical trials will be integrated with analyses of patients’ genomic information and biomarkers – naturally occurring measurable indicators of a disease. This will help us identify the right drug for the right patient to halt this disease.”
CEO of Shake It Up Australia, Clyde Campbell, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2009, says, “This five year program includes multiple clinical trials of potentially disease modifying drugs and treatments across Australia and will include many hundreds of patients. It’s going to have a substantial impact on identifying effective treatments and fast tracking them to people with the disease.”
Neurologists, Professor Simon Lewis (National Trials Lead, University of Sydney) and Associate Professor John O’Sullivan (University of QLD Trials Lead), say, “Despite substantial efforts, we’re still no closer to better treatments against disease progression or diagnostics for Parkinson’s. This is a multifaceted approach with international experts to address the primary unmet need in Parkinson’s globally.”
Director of Research and Development at The Cure Parkinson’s Trust, Dr Richard Wyse says, “The Australian Parkinson’s Mission will initially test the effectiveness of four repurposed drugs from The Cure Parkinson’s Trust’s international Linked Clinical Trials programme which have been evaluated by a committee of international Parkinson’s experts, to prioritise drugs with the potential to slow or stop Parkinson’s disease. With thanks to the Australian Government for its visionary support in this ground-breaking and unified approach to tackling Parkinson’s in Australia and around the world.”
Senior Vice President, Research Programs at The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, Dr Brian Fiske, said, “As a global leader in funding research and therapeutic development for Parkinson’s disease, we are thrilled that the Australian government is supporting this important mission. It has the potential to advance precision medicine and improve treatment for people with Parkinson’s worldwide.”
This personalised medicine mandate of the Mission will benefit from collaborations with two US-based researchers: Vikram (Vik) Khurana, MD, PhD, and Jian Peng, PhD. Khurana is the chief of the Division of Movement Disorders in the Department of Neurology and member of the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He is Principal Faculty within the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and Associate Member of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT. Peng is an Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
CEO of Parkinson’s Australia, Steve Sant says, “This represents the most significant investment in Parkinson’s research in Australian history. We applaud the Government for their innovative and forward-thinking actions to support this Australian-led international effort.”
The Australian Parkinson’s Mission was made possible by early philanthropic support from Geoff and Dawn Dixon, David and Helen Baffsky, Dr Richard Balanson and Dawn Talbot and the Shake It Up Australia Foundation.
The Australian Parkinson’s Mission will:
- Identify and fast track effective treatments for people with Parkinson’s;
- Create a pioneering model for future nation-wide collaborations between researchers, clinicians and people living with Parkinson’s;
- Increase access to repurposed and new drugs;
- Identify potential diagnostic tools for Parkinson’s to enable early disease detection and intervention;
- Involve 1,000 people with Parkinson’s over five years.
- The cause of Parkinson’s disease is unknown;
- Current treatments only mask the multiple, and debilitating, motor symptoms of the disease which include hand and body tremors, limb and body stiffness, and difficulty walking;
- The total economic cost of the disease was estimated to be $12.3 billion last year.