Scientists seek greater understanding of complex disease with funding from the National Research Program

Parkinson Society Canada (PSC) and its regional partners have great expectations for the 29 new grant, fellowship and student awards funded to advance our knowledge of Parkinson’s, a complex disease. One of the most promising of this year’s recipients is Dr. Jean-François Trempe, assistant professor at McGill University, who received a New Investigator Award.

Trempe, whose great-uncle had Parkinson’s, wants to solve the puzzle of Parkinson’s through basic understanding about the way the disease works. He is studying the structure and shape of PINK1, a protein that plays a critical role in familial Parkinson’s disease. Learning the shape of this protein could eventually help researchers develop a drug to repair the protein when it is damaged, to help it do its intended job of keeping brain cells healthy.

“Medical history tells us that whenever we get the structure of a molecule, it gives us so many ideas about how to fix it,” says Trempe. “There is a saying that a picture is worth a thousand words – a structure is worth a thousand experiments.”

Parkinson Society Canada (PSC) is the only health charity that specifically funds Parkinson’s research in Canada; funding research that investigates most aspects of the disease, including: causes, complications, cognitive impairment, biomarkers, neuroprotection and quality of life.

Funding for this cycle totals $1,645,332 to support new Parkinson’s research projects in Canada over the next two years. Parkinson Society Canada’s National Research Program is currently committed to investing a total of $2,015,332, including 11 research awards now in their second year. The National Research Fund has now funded more than 450 research awards, totaling more than $24 million since 1981.

The 2014 to 2016 research awards* include:

  • 10 Pilot Project Grants
  • 2 Psychosocial Pilot Project Grants
  • 3 New Investigator Awards
  • 4 Basic Research Fellowships
  • 2 Clinical Movement Disorders Fellowships
  • 6 Graduate Student Awards
  • 1 Psychosocial Doctoral Award
  • 1 Psychosocial Research Grant

* A detailed list of the researchers (link to Funded Research page 2014-2016 list on PSC website), their project titles, affiliations and funding amounts is available on Parkinson Society Canada’s website at

Another newly funded researcher is immunologist Patrick Flood at the University of Alberta. Dr. Flood is investigating a drug compound that has been shown to stop the inflammatory process involved in killing the brain cells that produce dopamine and regulate movement. Flood and his colleagues are using proteins to deliver that drug directly to the affected area of the brain, and hope eventually not only to stop the death of dopamine-producing cells, but also to regenerate them to reverse the destruction.

If we can convert the inflammatory response from destruction to regeneration, there’s a possibility we will regenerate at least enough dopamine-producing neurons that people won’t suffer symptoms,” says Flood.

Individual research project profiles will soon be added to the website at So check back later to learn more about the award recipients.