Parkinson’s grants awarded to three OHSU researchers

The American Parkinson Disease Association announced today, Aug. 3, that it has awarded $1.6 million toward research for the 2016-2017 funding cycle. Three OHSU researchers are among the recipients of this year’s awards.

unniVivek Unni, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of neurology in the Parkinson Center of Oregon and Jungers Center for Neurosciences Research at OHSU, is the recipient of the prestigious George C. Cotzias Fellowship, named in honor of the scientist who helped develop Levodopa as a treatment for Parkinson’s disease. The fellowship award will support Unni’s research using new imaging approaches to examine the molecular mechanisms of Lewy body pathology-associated death in mouse models of Parkinson’s disease. Specifically, Unni’s lab is working to distinguish between protective and toxic alpha-synuclein protein aggregates which may lead to new treatments to slow Parkinson’s disease progression.

martinIan Martin, Ph.D., assistant professor of neurology in the Jungers Center for Neurosciences Research with membership in the Parkinson Center of Oregon, received one of seven of the association’s research grants. The funding will support his research defining key pathogenic mechanisms underlying neurodegeneration in Parkinson’s disease.

Vinita-Chittoor-120Vinita Ganesh Chittoor, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher in the Martin lab, was one of only three Post-Doctoral Fellowship Award recipients. Chittoor works on evaluating the influence of diet on LRRK2-mediated toxicity in Parkinson’s disease. (Mutations in LRRK2, an enzyme encoded by the PARK8 gene, are a proven cause of PD.)

The grants are awarded through a competitive application process and reviewed by American Parkinson Disease Association’s scientific advisory board. “The objective…is to invest in the best science,” said David G. Standaert, M.D., Ph.D., John N. Whitaker Professor, chair of neurology, and director, Division of Movement Disorders, University of Alabama at Birmingham, and chairman, scientific advisory board. “As we evaluate these proposals, we focus on funding researchers who are at the start of their Parkinson’s research career and seek to attract the best and brightest minds to work on this important problem. Our aim is to accelerate research and support translational ideas that have the potential to truly improve the quality of life for persons living with PD.”