Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center Recommended to Receive $14.9 Million to Develop Promising Treatment for Parkinson’s Disease

Government Relations Committee”Public Relations Committee”

The Associated Medical Schools of New York (AMSNY) today announced that the Empire State Stem Cell Board (NYSTEM) has recommended approximately $14.9 million in funding be awarded to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center to develop an innovative stem-cell therapy that is predicted to increase motor control and coordination in patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

“The recommendation to finance this promising research is yet another outstanding example of the effectiveness of New York’s stem cell program, NYSTEM,” said Dr. Lorenz Studer, principal investigator (PI) and Director of the Center for Stem Cell Biology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. “This funding will allow our team to advance our novel cell therapy quickly and bring the project to the level of clinical trials within four years. NYSTEM funding is absolutely critical at this stage as no other funding source is available.”

Once the project enters the clinical trial phase, researchers hope to permanently alleviate or reverse the debilitating symptoms of the disease in Parkinson’s patients.

“This recommended funding is critical to advancing Parkinson’s disease research,” said State Health Commissioner, Nirav R. Shah, M.D., M.P.H. “These resources will enable the outstanding team at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center to continue their vital efforts to halt the progression of Parkinson’s disease.”

The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation defines Parkinson’s disease as a chronic and progressive movement disorder, meaning that symptoms continue and worsen over time. Nearly one million people in the U.S. are living with Parkinson’s disease. The cause is unknown, and presently there is no cure.

Parkinson’s involves the malfunction and death of vital nerve cells in the brain, called neurons. Neurons produce dopamine, a chemical that sends messages to the part of the brain that controls movement and coordination. As Parkinson’s progresses, the amount of dopamine produced in the brain decreases, leaving a person unable to control movement normally.

“After extensive efforts and many years of frustrating studies in labs across the world, our team has finally made a breakthrough discovery that enables the derivation of nearly unlimited numbers of authentic midbrain dopamine producing neurons from stem cells,” said Dr. Studer. “The NYSTEM funding will enable our team to develop these neurons and ultimately prepare them to be safely reintroduced to patients with Parkinson’s, replenishing their dopamine levels.”

While pharmacological, gene therapy and surgical therapies have been developed for Parkinson’s, none of those approaches can restore proper dopamine neuron function, and long-term disease control for patients is limited.

The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation estimates the combined direct and indirect cost of Parkinson’s, including treatment, social security payments and lost income from inability to work, to be nearly $25 billion per year in the United States alone. Medication costs for an individual with Parkinson’s average $2,500 a year, and therapeutic surgery can cost up to $100,000 per patient.

“Quickly advancing this project could potentially save patients and the state millions in medical care costs, while improving the health and well-being of millions of Parkinson’s patients across the globe,” said Dr. Studer.

In 2007, New York State allocated $600 million over 11 years to NYSTEM, making it the second largest publicly financed stem cell program in the country. To date, New York has awarded nearly $200 million and has recommended an additional $62.2 million to support stem cell research for the purpose of exploring innovative cures and treatment to life threatening and chronic illnesses.

According to a 2012 AMSNY report, the state’s investment has been a tool for economic development by creating more than 400 jobs at New York’s medical schools since the program’s inception. In addition, NYSTEM is unique in that it funds early stage projects that have not been able to access other funding sources such as those granted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NYSTEM also is distinct among other research grants in that it provides funding for capital projects and equipment, allowing institutions to develop or expand their stem cell research infrastructure.

“Not only are physicians and scientists making progress towards understanding how to effectively treat Parkinson’s disease, they are also generating jobs, attracting promising young women and men into medical and scientific careers here in New York, and enhancing our state’s leadership in biomedical research,” said Jo Wiederhorn. “None of this would have been possible without NYSTEM.”

AMSNY is New York’s voice for medical education. It is comprised of the sixteen public and private medical schools in NYS. Its members are:

For more information, please contact:
Deborah Fasser

Related News

Michael J. Fox Foundation
Stem Cell Board Recommends $14.9 Million for Parkinson’s Project
© 2013 Michael J. Fox Foundation. All rights reserved.