In his lab, neurologist Clemens Scherzer, MD, is focused on creating the healthcare of the future for patients with Parkinson’s disease. Scientists have linked the neurodegenerative disease with common variants in genetic code, but how these variants cause the disease is still not clear. Scherzer now believes the answer to this question is finally in reach.
The Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s (ASAP) Initiative has awarded a $9 million grant to Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a founding member of Mass General Brigham, to propel the work of Scherzer and his research collaborators. This grant will enable researchers to map the cellular circuits of Parkinson’s across 1 million human brain cells. During the three-year project, they aim to uncover how glitches in genetic code create changes in specialized neurons and glia cells that lead brain cells to malfunction.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” notes Scherzer, director of the Center for Advanced Parkinson Research and of the Precision Neurology Program at the Brigham. “We’ve been dreaming of this project for a long time. The technology wasn’t mature enough and government funders view projects like this as outside their traditional scope. Now, we have the technology and a tremendous funding opportunity to chart a new path in Parkinson’s research.”
With this grant, the Brigham team joins the ASAP Collaborative Research Network, a group of international, multidisciplinary research teams at 60 institutions spanning 11 countries. As a collective, they seek to address key knowledge gaps in basic disease mechanisms contributing to Parkinson’s disease.
“We’re delighted to have Dr. Scherzer and the Brigham as part of the ASAP Collaborative Research Network,” says Ekemini A.U. Riley, PhD, managing director of the ASAP Initiative. “The Parkinson’s team at the Brigham is incredibly strong, and we wish them all the best with this crucial project.”
The ASAP Initiative sees Scherzer’s work as instrumental in achieving its mission, which is to foster research collaborations aimed at better understanding and treating the underlying causes of Parkinson’s disease. To bring projects to fruition, ASAP works with The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research as its implementation partner.
“We’re thankful to the generosity of our philanthropic partners,” says Scherzer. “With their support, we can engage in this moonshot project and pursue a major breakthrough that gets us closer to our ultimate goal—predicting and preventing Parkinson’s disease from ever progressing.”