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NINDS Launches Parkinson's Disease Biomarkers Program with New Grants

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has launched a new program that aims to spur development of biomarkers for use in battling Parkinson's disease and plans to use $5 million this year to fund such projects.

In addition to developing new biomarkers, the $5 million this year will go toward the development of new discovery tools and testing them.

NINDS said today in two new requests for applications that although there has recently been "considerable progress" in discoveries about the basic biology of Parkinson's disease, there is a need for new ways to measure the progress of the disease and to detect neurodegeneration before the onset of motor signs, as well as assays for use in therapeutic measurement. To address this need, the institute has kicked off a new Parkinson's Disease Biomarkers Program, or PDBP, with these new grants.

Initially, the PDBP will support research to test and collect clinical data on Parkinson's biomarkers; identify novel PD biomarkers using genomic, metabolomic, proteomic, and other tools to measure and diagnose PD; support biospecimen banking and distribution; and fund a data management resource. Through collaborations with the PD research community, NINDS plans to integrate all of its current and future PD biomarker project into this program.

One of the new grant programs will provide $4 million in fiscal 2012 to fund six projects that will discover biomarkers to improve the efficiency and outcome of Phase II clinical trials and support the collection of data and new biospecimens.

Researchers may use the funds to evaluate potential biomarkers by identifying clinical measures that can predict PD progression, conduct lab-based projects, and use imaging and molecular imaging to study brain structure and function.

The other new grant program will use $1 million in 2012 to fund studies that develop new or improved PD biomarker methodologies and technologies. Funding for each project under this grant is limited to up to $200,000.

These projects should aim to develop tools and methods that can inform decision-making in phase II clinical trials, including methods and technologies for biospecimen preparation, quantitative analysis of proteins and peptides, data analysis methods for advancing PD biomarker studies, and studies that will help move an assay or method from an exploratory stage towards a validated approach.

These research projects may include, but are not limited to efforts to develop sample prep and labeling technologies, mass spectrometry tools for use in biomarker studies, protein capture and microarray tools, and imaging and data analysis technologies.