The Michael J. Fox Foundation has given Danish pharma firm H. Lundbeck a DKK 3.5 million (around $651,000) grant toward a three-year research program examining how a specific change in the Leucine Rich Repeat Kinase 2 (Lrrk2) gene is linked to an increased risk of developing Parkinson's disease. Lundbeck says it will use the grant to support research to identify Lrrk2-dependent biological fingerprints in specific cells within the blood. 

The goal of the project is to develop a new treatment that could slow or stop disease progression in both hereditary and sporadic cases. According to Lundbeck, the Lrrk2 gene is the greatest contributor to Parkinson's and, by studying a specific mutation in Lrrk2, its researchers are hoping to identify the first-ever biological markers, or biomarkers, of the disease. Finding those biomarkers would make it possible to diagnosis patients earlier, including those who have no hereditary form of the disease. 

“With this project we hope to confirm the hypothesis for the role of Lrrk2 in unknown origins of Parkinson's disease,” Kim Andersen, svp, research at Lundbeck, said in a statement. “That would enable us to speed up the work towards biomarkers and specific treatments targeting this gene, potentially paving the way for new and better treatments of Parkinson's disease.”

Lundbeck adds that this is the third grant from MJFF it has received within the past six months. It also received two research grants totaling DKK 5.5 million (approximately $1.02 million) back in October: one for a project aimed at developing a treatment that could address Parkinson's underlying disease mechanisms and which could potentially prevent or alter the course of the disease, the other for a project to develop a symptomatic treatment without the motor side effects that come with the existing treatment.

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