Vanderbilt awarded $4.4 million by the Michael J. Fox Foundation

by Bill Snyder

A drug discovery team at Vanderbilt University Medical Center led by Jeffrey Conn., Ph.D., has been awarded a $4.4 million "LEAPS" grant by the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research to jump-start development of a new class of Parkinson’s disease drugs.

"Dopamine replacement therapies have long been considered the ‘gold standard’ of Parkinson’s treatment. But they lose efficacy over time, alleviate only some of Parkinson’s disease symptoms, and cause side effects that can be as debilitating as the disease itself," said Katie Hood, CEO of the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

"Patients don’t think this status quo is good enough and neither does our foundation," Fox said in a prepared statement. "Dr. Conn and his colleagues are aiming to bring about a 180-degree turn in Parkinson’s disease treatment by developing an entirely new class of drugs that would bypass the dopamine system altogether."

The funding was awarded under the foundation’s 2007 LEAPS (Linked Efforts to Accelerate Parkinson’s Solutions) initiative.

In previous work, Conn’s group showed that increasing the activity of a specific glutamate receptor, mGluR4, alleviated symptoms of Parkinson’s in an animal model.

In further work supported by the foundation’s Target Validation initiative, his team identified molecules that increase mGluR4 activity. During the next three years, the researchers will use a combination of medicinal chemistry, molecular biology, and animal studies to engineer these molecules into a compound that can be clinically tested for use as a drug that could provide sustained symptomatic relief.

"At that point," Conn said, "we may partner with a large pharmaceutical company."

Early animal studies suggest that some of the molecules may slow progression of Parkinson’s disease. While there are no guarantees that humans will respond in the same way, if they do, "it would be the first-ever treatment to be successful in slowing progression," he said.

Conn, a professor of Pharmacology, directs the Vanderbilt Program in Drug Discovery. His LEAPS team includes:

David Weaver, Ph.D., director of the Vanderbilt Institute of Chemical Biology (VICB) high-throughput screening facility and of new leads discovery in the Program in Drug Discovery, who will oversee the high-throughput screening to identify initially promising lead compounds;

Colleen Niswender, Ph.D., head of the molecular pharmacology team in the Program in Drug Discovery, who will screen lead compounds in cell-based assays to determine which hold the most promise to move on to testing in animal models;

Carrie Jones, Ph.D., head of the in-vivo and behavioral pharmacology group in the Program in Drug Discovery, who will spearhead the screening of lead compounds in rodent behavior models of Parkinson’s disease;

Yoland Smith, Ph.D., professor of Neurology at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University, who will oversee testing of the most promising lead compounds in the final preclinical phase of the project; and

Craig W. Lindsley, Ph.D., who directs the medicinal chemistry core in the Program in Drug Discovery, the Chemistry Center in Vanderbilt’s Molecular Libraries Screening Center Network and the VICB synthesis core.

Lindsley will hold ultimate responsibility for optimizing the compound that will be tested in the clinic.


WhistlePig + Alfa Romeo F1

SHOREHAM, VT (September 13, 2023) — WhistlePig Whiskey, the leaders in independent craft whiskey, and Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake are waving the checkered flag on a legend-worthy release that’s taking whiskey to G-Force levels. The Limited Edition PiggyBack Legends Series: Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake Barrel is a high Rye Whiskey selected by the Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake drivers, with barrels trialed in their wind tunnel to ensure a thrilling taste in every sip.

The third iteration in WhistlePig’s Single Barrel PiggyBack Legends Series, the Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake Barrel is bottled at 96.77 proof, a nod to Valtteri Bottas’ racing number, 77, and the precision of racing. Inspired by Zhou Guanyu, the first Chinese F1 driver, this Rye Whiskey is finished with lychee and oolong tea. Herbal and floral notes of the oolong tea complement the herbaceous notes of WhistlePig’s signature PiggyBack 100% Rye, rounded out with a juicy tropical fruit finish and a touch of spice.

Keep readingShow less
by Spectrum Medical Care Center

Nurse Practitioner Ari Kravitz

When I started medical transition at 20 years old, it was very difficult to get the care I needed for hormone replacement therapy because there are very few providers trained in starting hormones for trans people, even though it’s very similar to the hormones that we prescribe to women in menopause or cisgender men with low testosterone.

I hope more providers get trained in LGBTQ+ healthcare, so they can support patients along their individual gender journey, and provide the info needed to make informed decisions about their body. I’ve personally seen my trans patients find hope and experience a better quality of life through hormone replacement therapy.

Keep readingShow less

Descanso Resort swimming pool and lounge area

Descanso Resort, Palm Springs' premier destination for gay men, just received Tripadvisor's highest honor, a Travelers' Choice "Best of the Best" award for 2023. Based on guests' reviews and ratings, fewer than 1% of Tripadvisor's 8 million listings around the world receive the coveted "Best of the Best" designation. Descanso ranked 12th in the top 25 small inns and hotels category in the United States. Quite an accomplishment!

Open less than two years, Descanso Resort offers gay men a relaxing and luxurious boutique hotel experience just minutes away from Palm Springs' buzziest restaurants, nightclubs, and shopping. Descanso has quickly established itself as a top destination for sophisticated gay travelers, earning hundreds of 5-star guest reviews and consistently ranking in Trapadvisor's top positions alongside brother properties Santiago Resort and Twin Palms Resort.

Keep readingShow less