Parkinson Canada researchers aim for early diagnosis

Whether they are established experts, or just beginning their careers, Parkinson’s researchers count on funding from the Parkinson Canada Research Program to test new theories and to discover a critical piece of the complex puzzle that is Parkinson’s disease.

Currently, there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease.

If researchers could find a non-invasive, physiological tool to diagnose Parkinson’s disease, it might be easier to start treatment earlier. At McGill University, Dr. Mervyn Gornitsky believes he has done just that—by measuring the quantity of a protein called heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) in samples of the saliva of people who have Parkinson’s. Gornitsky, an oral surgeon, is using his biobank of 4000 saliva samples to confirm the test’s ability to determine the presence of Parkinson’s in people who are in the early stages of the disease, even before they show tremors, stiffness or other motor control symptoms.

“Here I was with all of this liquid around me, watching it go down the drain and wondering whether I could use saliva and find out if there’s anything in saliva that could determine disease,” says Gornitsky, a professor emeritus at McGill University.

“If we get people diagnosed early before they have the movement disorder symptoms that normally come with Parkinson’s, then we could delay those movement symptoms to a later date.”

Parkinson Canada has great expectations for the 24 researchers receiving new grants, fellowships and student awards during the next two years. Each of them will advance our knowledge of Parkinson, a complex brain disease, as well as interpret and share their knowledge with other researchers and health professionals. Those receiving clinical fellowships will actually treat individuals living with Parkinson’s. Many of these researchers will continue their connection with Canada’s Parkinson’s community.

In 2018, Parkinson Canada increased funding for grants by 10%. As of September 2018, Parkinson Canada is proud to support 24 new grants, fellowships and student awards*. These represent a total of $1,274,382 to support new research projects in Canada during the next two years.

New awards include:

  • 8 Pilot Project Grants
  • 4 New Investigator Awards
  • 3 Basic Research Fellowships
  • 1 Clinical Movement Disorders Fellowship
  • 1 Clinical Research Fellowship
  • 7 Graduate Student Awards

Since 1981, the Parkinson Canada Research Program has funded 552 research projects, totalling close to $29 million.

*A detailed list of the 2018–2020 researchers, their project titles, affiliations and funding amounts can be found at

Parkinson Canada is the largest, nongovernment funder of Parkinson’s research in Canada. Donors fuel investment in science that explores most aspects of the disease, including causes, complications, cognitive impairment, biomarkers, neuroprotection and quality of life.

Regarding the Parkinson Canada Research Program

Since 1981, the Parkinson Canada Research Program has invested close to $29 million in 552 projects to expand our knowledge of Parkinson’s disease. The program invests in:

  • High-quality, innovative Canadian research by established and promising investigators.
  • Discovery-stage research where investigators test new theories and pursue promising new leads.
  • Researchers at the beginning of their careers in order to foster the next generation of Parkinson’s scientists.
  • Novel research to build greater capacity, promote creativity and engage more researchers.
  • Specialist training for clinicians to build capacity in high-quality care for people with Parkinson’s.

The Parkinson Canada Research Program explores related disorders including: Multiple System Atrophy (MSA), Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP), and other Parkinson’s conditions and the impact these diseases have on society.

To find out more about the Parkinson Canada Research Program visit

Welcome *new* members of the Scientific Advisory Council and Research Policy Committee

The Research Policy Committee (RPC) and Scientific Advisory Council (SAC) are two separate volunteer committees of the Parkinson Canada Board. The chair of the SAC also serves on the RPC to ensure continuity. The Scientific Advisory Council (SAC) is a volunteer panel of experts which reviews and ranks funding applications to determine scientific excellence and relevance to Parkinson’s disease, providing the highest quality of objective adjudication.

Dr. Lorraine Kalia, SAC

Lorraine Kalia received her MD/PhD and neurology residency training at University of Toronto. She conducted a postdoctoral research fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital and a movement disorders fellowship at Toronto Western Hospital. Currently, she is an assistant professor and clinician scientist in the Division of Neurology at University of Toronto. Her research program focuses on Parkinson’s disease and related disorders with the goal of understanding the key molecular mechanisms responsible for neurodegeneration to develop novel therapies.

Dr. Tamara Pringsheim, SAC

Dr. Tamara Pringsheim is an Associate Professor with the Department of Clinical Neurosciences, Psychiatry, Pediatrics and Community Health Sciences at the University of Calgary. She is the program lead for the Tourette and Pediatric Movement Disorder program at Alberta Children’s Hospital and the Deputy Director of the Mathison Centre for Mental Health Research and Education.  She also works as an evidence-based medicine methodologist for the American Academy of Neurology.

Dr. Ekaterina Rogaeva, SAC

Dr. Ekaterina Rogaeva’s graduate degree (1983) and PhD in Biochemistry (1988) were obtained at Moscow State University. For the past 25 years, Dr. Rogaeva has been doing research at the University of Toronto in the TANZ Centre for Research in Neurodegenerative Diseases. In 2001, she obtained the New Pioneer Award from the Ontario government in the Science & Technology category. Dr. Rogaeva contributed to 280 peer-reviewed papers, many of which are focused on the development of effective genetic testing of different forms of dementia (e.g. Alzheimer’s Disease), as well as movement disorders (e.g. Parkinson’s Disease and ALS).

John Parkhurst, Patient Advocate, RPC

John Parkhurst has extensive volunteer experience, which includes more than three years at the Penetanguishene Curling Club and more than six years at the Midland Bay Sailing Club. John has dedicated a significant amount of time to serving those living with Parkinson’s as a former member of the Board of Directors of Parkinson Society Canada and Chair of the Parkinson Society Central & Northern Ontario. He has served on the advocacy committees both nationally and in Ontario, and currently serves as a Director on the Board of Parkinson Canada. John is also a care partner to his wife, Margot Bartlett, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease more than 20 years ago.

For a complete list of Council members, visit