The Michael J. Fox Foundation Funds Research to Develop Parkinson's Blood Test

Published: Oct 04, 2013

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NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J., Oct. 3, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Research being performed by Durin Technologies, Inc., exploring the development of a novel blood test for Parkinson's disease was recently awarded a second grant from The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research.

Durin, a company that received seed funding from Foundation Venture Capital Group, LLC, developed the test that could mean quicker diagnosis and faster drug development for Parkinson's patients.

"Using current diagnostic methods, it can take months or years to make an accurate Parkinson's diagnosis, and by that time, at least a third of the neurons in the affected area of the brain will have already died," explained Durin Founder Dr. Robert G. Nagele, a professor of medicine at the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine. "A reliable blood test for Parkinson's would have a huge impact on patient care and on research into potential disease-modifying medications."

In a pilot study published last year, the test was remarkably accurate (93.1 percent sensitivity and 100 percent specificity) in detecting specific autoantibody biomarkers that indicate the presence of Parkinson's disease.

"The reliance on clinical observation of Parkinson's disease is a hindrance in accurate and early disease detection," said Dr. Katie Kopil, associate director of Research Programs at The Michael J. Fox Foundation. "The Foundation has invested in efforts to identify biomarkers to measure Parkinson's onset and progression and to develop and test new therapeutics. Durin Technologies' identification of these autoantibody biomarkers offers great possibilities in this arena."

Because initial symptoms may be subtle or overlooked, Parkinson's disease can be difficult to diagnose in its early stages. Despite that, Parkinson's is the second most common neurodegenerative disease among older adults with approximately 60,000 new cases annually in the United States.

A blood test would help researchers and clinicians more accurately diagnose patients earlier in the disease process and intervene with therapies sooner. Identifying Parkinson's patients before the onset of motor symptoms also will allow researchers to study the pathology of the disease in this stage and identify targets for preventive therapy. Biomarkers, like autoantibodies in blood, let investigators test new therapies more efficiently by measuring biological impact rather than waiting for change in clinical presentation.

"The support of The Michael J. Fox Foundation is critical in enabling Durin Technologies to move this research forward," agreed Dr. George F. Heinrich, CEO, and James M. Golubieski, president of Foundation Venture Capital Group. "We are hopeful that Dr. Nagele's research will help to fill an unmet need in the diagnostic and pharmaceutical industries."

Foundation Venture Capital Group invested up to $500,000 to fund Durin's initial testing, which focused on diagnostic tests for Alzheimer and Parkinson's diseases. The Michael J. Fox Foundation also funded Durin's initial research with a grant of $367,082 and provided a supplemental grant of $351,202 that allows Durin to attempt to duplicate initial findings to achieve similar results in a larger sample size.

About Foundation Venture Capital Group

Foundation Venture Capital Group, LLC, ( invests in start-up companies in the life sciences field that want to move their products and ideas to commercialization. FVCG portfolio companies currently include:

  • Actinobac Biomed Inc., developing a therapeutic agent targeting blood cells for the treatment of hematological malignancies such as leukemia and lymphomas;
  • Affineti Biologics, Inc., advancing research in the development of therapeutic and diagnostic products based on new discoveries in oral biology and dental medicine;
  • CellXplore, Inc., engaged in the development of biomarker-based in vitro diagnostic assays for cancer;
  • Celvive, Inc., working to develop technology to treat patients with chronic spinal cord injuries with their own adult stem cells;
  • Durin Technologies, working to develop a blood test to diagnose Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and other neurodegenerative diseases;
  • GeneAssess, Inc., developing a diagnostic tool for more accurate breast cancer staging;
  • Longevica Pharmaceuticals, Inc., developing a chemoprotective agent that may keep normal cells healthy during cancer treatments (FVCG's equity interest in Longevica was sold to Rostock International, LTD, a subsidiary of a Moscow (Russia) based global investment firm);
  • MentiNova, Inc., working to reduce side effects of L-Dopa Induced Dyskinesia
  • NovoPedics, Inc., developing an implantable meniscus replacement/regeneration medical device to restore mobility to patients suffering from severe meniscus knee injuries
  • Snowdon Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a drug discovery company focused on several major therapeutic areas.

About The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research
Our challenges don't define us. Our actions do.

The Michael J. Fox Foundation exists for one reason: to find the cure for Parkinson's disease in our lifetime. Parkinson's is the second most common brain disease, estimated to affect one in 100 individuals over age 60. Founded by Michael J. Fox in 2000, the Foundation has quickly grown to become the largest nonprofit funder of Parkinson's research globally, and was called "the most credible voice on Parkinson's research in the world" by The New York Times. As Michael returns to network television full-time after more than two decades living with Parkinson's disease, the Foundation has launched think/able, a project celebrating the power of optimism and determination to overcome challenges and achieve our biggest goals. Now through the end of October, visit the Foundation's Web site to write Michael a message about how you think/able to reach for your dreams.

SOURCE Foundation Venture Capital Group

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