What do Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s have in common, and what makes them unique? A new funding opportunity encourages researchers to re-examine the question. Biomarkers Across Neurodegenerative Diseases—BAND for short—will offer grants of up to $150,000 total for a maximum of two years for researchers to mine existing data from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) and the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI). The Alzheimer’s Association and The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research have pooled together $1 million, enough to support around six grants. The W. Garfield Weston Foundation—a private family foundation based in Toronto—pledged to pitch in another $1 million for Canadian applicants.
Researchers know that although AD and PD are distinct diseases, they share some features. While AD always results in memory problems, about half of PD patients experience dementia as well. Though the combination of Aβ plaque and tangle pathology is emblematic of AD and α-synuclein aggregates characterize PD, these pathologies overlap substantially between diseases (for a review, see Irwin et al., 2013). Other protein pathologies mix in as well (for a review, see Jellinger, 2008). BAND is intended to entice researchers to collaborate across disciplines to compare biomarkers among AD and PD. ADNI and PPMI share clinical, biological, and imaging measures that researchers can use for this purpose. The hope is that pilot and proof-of-principle research funded by BAND will lay the groundwork for future grants from other funding agencies.
What about scientists studying neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia with Lewy bodies and frontemporal dementia? They will be eligible to apply provided they intend to use ADNI and PPMI data. They may incorporate information from other datasets as well. BAND will support studies that aim to discover shared or unique biomarkers, identify common mechanisms of disease, assess overlap in genetic markers, standardize biomarker assays, or pursue related topics.
The three funding organizations will hold a conference call at noon EST on Thursday, February 13, to explain the grant and answer questions. For details, see the BAND webpage. Letters of intent are due March 19; full applications must be in by May 14. Grants will be announced and distributed in the summer.—Gwyneth Dickey Zakaib
- Irwin DJ, Lee VM, Trojanowski JQ. Parkinson's disease dementia: convergence of α-synuclein, tau and amyloid-β pathologies. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2013 Sep;14(9):626-36. PubMed.
- Jellinger KA. Neuropathological aspects of Alzheimer disease, Parkinson disease and frontotemporal dementia. Neurodegener Dis. 2008;5(3-4):118-21. PubMed.