Scherzer, Feany, and Dong Selected for $9M Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s Initiative Grant

A Brigham research team led by Clemens Scherzer, MD, director of the Center for Advanced Parkinson Research and Precision Neurology Program in the Department of Neurology, has been selected by the Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s (ASAP) initiative to receive $9 million over three years.

Scherzer will lead a project titled “Parkinson5D: Deconstructing Proximal Disease Mechanisms Across Cells, Space and Progression.” Brigham co-investigators on the project include Mel B. Feany, MD, PhD, a professor and senior neuropathologist in the Division of Pathology, and Xianjun Dong, PhD, an assistant professor and director of computational neuroscience at the Brigham. Instructor Saranna Fanning, PhD, also in the Neurology Department, is a member of this team. The interdisciplinary team will work in partnership with Joshua Levin, PhD; Sanja Vickovic, PhD; and Aviv Regev, PhD, of the Broad Institute and Su-Chun Zhang, MD, PhD, at the University of Wisconsin.

The initiative (termed PD5D) will tackle a fundamental question: How do common genetic risk variants cause Parkinson’s disease? The program will examine proximal genetic disease mechanisms across five dimensions — brain cell types, brain space and disease progression. It aims to reveal how glitches in the genetic code lead to changes in tens of thousands of physiologically specialized neurons and glia cells, and determine how, when, which and where brain cells are destined to malfunction. PD5D will map of the cellular circuits of Parkinson’s. It will translate the complex human genetics of Parkinson’s disease into proximal mechanisms in specific brain cells —in patients’ brains, in the model organism Drosophila, and in the lab using human pluripotent stem cell genetics.

Scherzer, who also leads the Harvard Biomarkers Study, aspires to invent the health care of the future for PD. His laboratory is uniquely focused on predicting and preventing the disease from ever progressing.

By receiving this grant, the Brigham team joins the ASAP Collaborative Research Network, an effort to support international, multidisciplinary, multi-institutional research teams to address key knowledge gaps in the basic disease mechanisms that contribute to PD development and progression. The ASAP initiative aims to accelerate the pace of discovery in PD research. Its implementation partner The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research issued the grant.