$161 million over three years


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The Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s (or ASAP) initiative is a major new source of funding for Parkinson’s research. And I mean MAJOR!

It is a global basic research initiative focused on fostering collaboration and resources to better understand the underlying causes of Parkinson’s. A return to basics in order to get a better grip on the biology of the disease.

Recently, the initiative announced their first round of grant awardees – handing out US$161 million for 3 year projects. This is one of the largest single rounds of research funding for Parkinson’s research ever!

In today’s post, we will look at what ASAP is, what the awarded projects will be investigating, and what this means for Parkinson’s research.

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NIH Parkinson’s research funding. Source: NIH

In 2016, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH – the world’s largest funder of medical research) allocated $161 million to Parkinson’s research.

It was a small fraction of the $30+ billion spent by the NIH on medical research that year, but it was still a much needed amount of money invested into research on this neurodegenerative condition.

This week, a major new Parkinson’s research program – called Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s (or ASAP – click here to read a previous SoPD post on this initiative) – announced the rewarding of $161 million in research funding to 21 projects involving 96 research leaders from 60 institutions across 11 countries (and 31 of the research leaders are female). Importantly, all of them are seeking to “accelerate targeted basic research and move us toward more meaningful advancements for Parkinson’s” (Click here to read the annoucement).

Think about that for a second:

ASAP has basically just allocated the same amount of funding to Parkinson’s research as the entire US Government did in 2016.


Continue reading “$161 million over three years”

Revise or reconstruct?


In 2019, researcher from around the world gathered for a special meeting in Toronto (Canada) to discuss/debate some of the most important issues slowing Parkinson’s research.

Specifically, they asked if Parkinson’s is not a single condition, but rather a collection of diseases that look very similar, can current research efforts be revised to cater for this shift in definitions, or does Parkinson’s research need to be reconstructed?

Recently a summary of the discussions at the meeting has been published.

In today’s post, we will review that summary document, explore some of the topics discussed, and consider some of their proposed solutions.


Source: Medium

Let’s start this post with a simple question: What are the first principles of Parkinson’s?

What do you mean “first principles”?

First principles are what philosophy and engineering types considered the most basic propositions (or assumptions) that cannot be deduced from any other propositions or assumptions.

Simply, they are the fundamental facts from which everything else stems.

Elon Musk likes to talk about first principles in all of his projects, and on all matters he suggests we should : “boil things down to their fundamental truths and say, ‘What are we sure is true?’… and then reason up from there, as opposed to reasoning by analogy”.

What is meant by ‘analogy’ here?

Analogy refers building knowledge and solving problems based on prior assumptions; using beliefs widely held and approved by a majority of people. It allows you to take your understanding of one domain and compare (or apply) it with another.

The example of analogy is that it is easier to teach students that electrons whizz around an atom’s nucleus the same way planets orbit the sun because they will have been exposed to this idea, than actually explaining the intricacies of nuclear physics…even though there are more than a few differences.

Source: Blog44

Let’s return to the initial question though: What are the first principles of Parkinson’s?

I don’t know. Are you going to tell me?

Nope. I don’t know either.

Ok. Um. So is this going to be a really short SoPD post then?


Recently Parkinson’s researchers around the world have been calling for efforts to establish the “first principles” of Parkinson’s (and Parkinson’s is not alone here – neurodegenerative research in general is going through a similar period of self reflection – click here to read more about this in Alzheimer’s).

A good example of this process is what happened in Toronto last April.

What happened in Toronto?

Continue reading “Revise or reconstruct?”





Yesterday the Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s (ASAP) initiative published a point of view in the scientific journal eLife. It laid out the objectives, themes and philosophy of an enormous new scientific effort to better understand Parkinson’s.

The overall project is being led by a Nobel prize winner scientist and employing the considerable resources of a very wealthy family that has been affected by Parkinson’s.

In today’s post we will have a look at what the ASAP initiative is planning to do and how it will hopefully significantly enhance our understanding of Parkinson’s.


Google co-founder Sergey Brin. Source: Emaze

Every so often something comes along that is so ‘next level’ in its scale and ambition that it gives you pause.

Two years ago, key Parkinson’s researchers from around the world were invited to the Milken Institute Center in for a grand meeting that was organised to plan out the foundations of a major new Parkinson’s research program that was to be called Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s (or ASAP).

The event was organised by Google co-founder Sergey Brin and his family foundation. The Brin family have been affected by Parkinson’s (Sergey’s mother and aunt both have the condition, and Sergey has a genetic risk factor that increases his risk of developing Parkinson’s).

The Brin Family – Sergey and his mother on the right. Source: CS

Sergey and his mother both carry a genetic variation in a region of DNA called PARK8. It is also known as Leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (or simply LRRK2 – pronounced ‘lark 2’). The variant increases the risk of developing an young-onset, slow progressing form of Parkinson’s (Click here to read more about LRRK2). Sergey may never develop the condition, but he has decided not to take any chances. He has taken out an “insurance policy” by investing hundreds of millions of dollars into Parkinson’s research.

Part of that insurance policy is the ASAP effort.

And ASAP is being coordinated by Prof Randy Schekman.

Who is Prof Randy Schekman?
Continue reading “A.S.A.P”