School of Pharmacy researcher receives funding from Michael J. Fox Foundation

By Staff

Manisha Patel, Ph.D. (Photo by Isabella Muturi Sauve)

The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research recently announced $1.5 million in total awards to six research teams, including an associate professor from University of Colorado Denver's School of Pharmacy, who are working to develop potentially disease-modifying therapies for Parkinson's disease (PD). The funding was awarded under the Novel Approaches to Drug Discovery for Parkinson's disease program made possible by funding from Elan Corporation, a neuroscience-based biotechnology company.

"Current therapeutic approaches to treat PD are associated with serious adverse effects and fail to provide long-term control of this relentlessly progressive disease," said Manisha Patel, Ph.D., an associate professor at the School of Pharmacy, and recipient of $300,000 of the $1.5 million awarded. "There is an urgent need for novel classes of therapeutic agents for the treatment of PD. Neuroprotective catalytic antioxidant compounds that are orally active and capable of penetrating the brain hold tremendous therapeutic potential for the treatment of PD."

Patel's laboratory has been involved in the development of catalytic antioxidants for the treatment of neuronal disorders for more than a decade. If the project is successful, potential drug candidates can be further developed by Elan for treatment of Parkinson's.

Awardees under Novel Approaches, a program that is an important component of the foundation's strategy of providing resources to underfunded areas of the drug development pipeline, include both academic and industry scientists. Of the six awardees, four teams including Patel are developing technologies to prevent the degeneration of dopaminergic neurons, the main type of cell affected in Parkinson's, by focusing on the reduction of oxidative stress and the inhibition of a protein associated with cell death. The remaining two will target the protein alpha-synuclein, whose clumping is a hallmark of Parkinson's pathology.

This is the second time in 2009 that the Michael J. Fox Foundation has provided funding to UC Denver researchers. Curt Freed, M.D., received a grant in August to further investigate his discovery that a drug called phenylbutyrate can prevent brain deterioration in animal models of Parkinson's by turning on a protective gene.