Oct 26

Researchers from ACHUCARRO part of new 11 million dollars consortium to tackle Parkinson's disease

Jan Tønnesen and Federico Soria join an international consortium, headed by Professor Miquel Vila (Autonomous University of Barcelona), in a research project awarded 10 million dollars from the Aligning Science Across Parkinson's (ASAP) initiative

Parkinson's disease is a degenerative neurological disorder that primarily affects the brain's motor system and is symptomatically characterized by tremor, rigidity, and slowing of movements. It is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder after Alzheimer's disease. The underlying cause is unknown, though both inherited genetic and environmental risk factors have been identified.

The United States based ASAP initiative is fostering global collaboration and resources to better understand the underlying disease causes and is working with the Michael J. Fox Foundation that is the principal private entity funding Parkinson's disease research worldwide. The annual ASAP grant scheme aims to fund ground-breaking research projects to be carried out within the highly enabling ASAP Collaborative Network, which entails all ongoing ASAP projects. Each year, numerous international research consortiums apply with proposals that are evaluated by experts in the Parkinson's research field. Only the most innovative projects with the greatest potential for scientific progress are funded and receive up to 11 million dollars.

Jan Tønnesen and Federico Soria, Sede building, Leioa, October 2021

In the latest funding round, the international consortium led by Prof. Vila (Barcelona), and including ACHUCARRO researchers Dr. Tønnesen and Dr. Soria, has been awarded an ASAP grant to investigate how and where Parkinson's disease pathology originates and develops across brain regions. Dr. Soria will investigate the extracellular matrix of the brain, while Dr. Tønnesen will focus on the extracellular space that lies between the individual brain cells. According to Dr. Soria, "both the extracellular matrix and the extracellular space are emerging research fields that are receiving increasing scientific interest and may be critical in the context of Parkinson's disease". The two researchers will rely on the state-of-the-art live cell microscopy approaches available at ACHUCARRO, and which have been a major factor in them being invited to join the consortium.

The prestigious consortium grant is first of its kind for ACHUCARRO and for the laboratories of the two participating researchers. As Dr. Tønnesen explains, "This is enormously important for Dr. Soria and me, for ACHUCARRO in general, and not least for the junior researchers we involve, because it allows us to extend our international collaborative network, as well as gives us visibility in a fiercely competitive research field." The project will be formally launched within the next few months and will run for three years.