Center for Neurodegenerative Science Time, Treasure and Talent 7 George Sharpe Sr. is a self-made man. Growing up in Detroit, George understood the value of hard work and the importance of community. Starting as a car porter, he washed cars for a local dealership. His determination and sales ability served him well, and in 1982 he moved to West Michigan with his wife Linda, daughter Nicole and sons, Blair and George Jr., and purchased his first dealership. George’s two sons soon began working alongside their father, learning the business and the tools of the trade. $ 800,000 Van Andel Institute’s annual Winterfest event has raised 0,000 to benefit Parkinson’s disease research GIVE TODAY AT VAI.ORG/GIVE Blair and George Jr. now run a number of successful luxury car dealerships. “We learned early about the business and grew to love it,” said George Jr. “My dad made sure we knew what it meant to earn a dollar and the value of hard work,” said Blair. When George Sr. was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, the brothers decided it was their responsibility, as businessmen and community leaders, to support research that would improve the lives of those living with the disease. Giving back and leveraging time, treasure and talent in the service of community is the Sharpe family credo. “We believe in what we’re doing, and one of our corporate philosophies is that you are only as strong as your community,” said Blair. “Community and business are a symbiotic relationship.” The Sharpe family has partnered with Van Andel Institute, collecting funds and chairing special events to benefit Parkinson’s disease research. The family was chosen by Van Andel Institute Board of Governors member Tony Asselta to chair the popular Winterfest event that he led for more than eight years. “The Sharpes are dedicated individuals in the community and everything they do comes from the heart,” said Asselta. “Like the Sharpes, my father also had Parkinson’s, so I know how important it is to support Van Andel Institute’s research into this disease.” The Sharpes had the opportunity to meet researchers like Dr. Patrik Brundin, Head of the Laboratory of Translational Parkinson’s Disease Research at Van Andel Institute, who share their passion for what research can do to benefit the greater good. Blair believes that their family partnership with the Institute can have a lasting impact on the future of Parkinson’s disease. “My father says, ‘We might not find a cure for Parkinson’s disease in my time, but hopefully my children and grandchildren won’t have to deal with this disease.’” A Personal Connection Parkinson’s disease affects more than 1 million people in the United States. The neurodegenerative disease impacts an individual’s motor functions, cognitive abilities and quality of life and often goes undetected until the physical symptoms become apparent in the patient. Currently, there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease. “I saw my father battle Parkinson’s disease for 22 years, and I know how the disease can impact patients,” said Brundin. “I also know that Van Andel Institute is completely devoted to researching and solving the many issues presented by Parkinson’s disease, and we’re going to stay with it until we’re done.” Your support of Van Andel Institute allows for extraordinary and quick advances in the treatment of Parkinson’s and neurodegenerative diseases. Every gift plays an important role in the goal to diagnose the disease earlier and discover treatments to slow disease progression and restore brain function, providing hope to patients and their families. Donate to the Center for Neurodegenerative Science to continue this exciting work at vai.org/give.
key discoveries Parkinson’s Disease Treatment Van Andel Institute participates in the Linked Clinical Trials initiative designed by The Cure Parkinson’s Trust to identify new treatments for Parkinson’s disease by repurposing medications approved to treat other conditions. Repositioning drugs that have already passed Phase I safety studies substantially cuts the time and costs associated with traditional drug development and brings new hope to people with Parkinson’s disease. “We believe in what we’re doing, and one of our corporate philosophies is that you are only as strong as your community. Community and business is a symbiotic relationship.”–Blair Sharpe Slowing Parkinson’s Disease The discoveries by Van Andel Institute’s Center for Neurodegenerative Science Director Dr. Patrik Brundin and colleagues in Europe may lead to new therapies that slow progression of Parkinson’s disease. For the first time, the team showed that a misfolded protein associated with Parkinson’s disease can travel from neurons in the olfactory bulb – one of the areas first impacted by the disease – to other regions of the brain. Center for Neurodegenerative Science George Sharpe Jr., Dr. Patrik Brundin and Blair Sharpe van andel research institute 8