2 years ago

2018 Spring/Summer Highlights of Hope

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  • Hope
  • Institute
  • Diseases
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  • Michigan


EVENTS COMING TOGETHER TO TAKE ON PARKINSON'S DISEASE recognized Parkinson’s expert. “Just as there is an urgent need for better therapies, there also is great hope in both scientific and patient communities that we are drawing close to a major change in how we treat the disease. Repurposing medications is a critical part of this.” Involving people with Parkinson’s in research and clinical trial development is crucial. As part of Rallying to the Challenge, a dedicated group of people with Parkinson’s tackled several pressing issues, including the implications of drug repurposing, differentiating between “hype versus hope” and examining the factors that influence patient participation in research. For two days each fall, the Institute welcomes hundreds of scientists, physicians and people with Parkinson’s who join together with a singular goal in mind—to find ways to beat the disease, which afflicts an estimated seven to 10 million people worldwide. It’s all part of Grand Challenges in Parkinson’s Disease and Rallying to the Challenge, one of our annual scientific symposia and its accompanying patient meeting hosted in partnership with The Cure Parkinson’s Trust. Here are three of the most important takeaways from 2017’s events: Lethargic cells may contribute to Parkinson’s. Each cell in the body contains mitochondria, biological power plants responsible for churning out energy to keep cells up and running. Scientists have long suspected that problems with energy production may play a role in Parkinson’s by interfering with normal processes required for cell health. Interest in this area has ebbed and flowed over time, but recently, a series RALLYING TO THE CHALLENGE PARTICIPANT of discoveries have revitalized interest and sparked new clinical trials aimed at slowing or stopping disease progression. Which leads us to... Treatments for other diseases may be game-changers in Parkinson’s. Many of these clinical efforts are looking at new uses for existing medications, including the diabetes drugs exenatide and liraglutide and the respiratory medication ambroxol. That’s because the diseases these drugs are designed to treat share many of the same underlying features found in Parkinson’s. By using medications that have already passed a rigorous gauntlet of safety tests, scientists have the potential to significantly shorten the time it takes for an effective therapy to get in the hands of patients. “As the global population ages, the number of people with Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s is expected to increase,” said Dr. Patrik Brundin, VARI associate director of research and an internationally Their recommendations? That scientists and physicians conducting clinical trials ensure the patient perspective is incorporated in trial design and that potential risks and rewards of participation are communicated clearly and in context. The same goes for research results— findings must be presented in a way that minimizes hype and accurately conveys the study’s implications for people with the disease. Lastly, they emphasized the importance of a team approach. “Collaboration is key to moving research forward,” said Israel Robledo, a Parkinson’s advocate and member of the Parkinson’s Movement Executive Council, an initiative of the Trust. “Rallying to the Challenge provides the opportunity to do this by providing input to the research community about issues that are important to the patient community. From this experience, we know that our voice is being listened to in the process.” We hope to see you this year! Grand Challenges in Parkinson’s Disease: Non-Motor Symptoms and Rallying to the Challenge will be held Sept. 26–27, 2018, at Van Andel Institute. Visit to learn more. 6 | VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE

HONORING EXCELLENCE LIGHTHOUSE GROUP—THE POWER OF COMMUNITY ACTION Jay Van Andel Award Each year at Grand Challenges in Parkinson's Disease, the Institute honors a pioneering scientist who has made significant contributions to Parkinson’s research. This year’s Jay Van Andel Award for Outstanding Achievement in Parkinson’s Disease Research went to physicianscientist Dr. J. William Langston, whose groundbreaking work revolutionized the way Parkinson’s is studied. The Tom Isaacs Award Last April, the Parkinson’s community lost Tom Isaacs, one of its greatest champions. As a person with Parkinson’s and co-founder of The Cure Parkinson’s Trust, Tom brought together scientists, physicians, companies and, critically, people with Parkinson’s to make a concerted effort for a cure. To honor his memory, the Institute and the Trust were pleased to present Prof. Tom Foltynie of University College London with the inaugural Tom Isaacs Award. Prof. Foltynie’s clinical research on the diabetes drug exenatide is a critical step toward a potential new therapy that may slow the disease’s progression. Nominations for the 2018 award will open in March at Lighthouse Group, a West Michiganbased insurance company, enthusiastically embraces the power of community action. Members of Lighthouse Group regularly volunteer time, sponsor events and raise money to benefit nonprofits throughout Michigan. One of Van Andel Institute’s (VAI) most dedicated and generous event sponsors, Lighthouse Group has contributed more than 0,000 to benefit the Institute’s biomedical research and science education initiatives. Eve Rogus, vice president and principal of Lighthouse Group, is a passionate supporter of VAI’s mission to improve health for current and future generations. For more than six years, she has helped facilitate Lighthouse Group’s partnership with the Institute. “We believe passionately that VAI will develop new therapies and cures for cancer and other diseases,” Rogus said. “We consider it a privilege to partner with VAI as it continues to forge ahead to achieve its goals.” Supporting organizations like VAI comes naturally to Lighthouse Group. For 20 years, its mission statement has included a commitment to community involvement, “Our support for the Institute is based on the notion that we can help scientists develop better and faster treatments for cancer and other diseases and make a difference locally at the same time.” - Eve Rogus reflecting its belief that well-placed philanthropy can change the world. “Our support for the Institute is based on the notion that we can help scientists develop better and faster treatments for cancer and other diseases and make a difference locally at the same time,” Rogus said. “By contributing to the health sciences in West Michigan, we support job growth, the perpetuation of knowledge and the global integration of the Grand Rapids community.” Thank you for your continued support, Lighthouse Group! THE LIGHTHOUSE GROUP TEAM VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE | 7

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