Awarding nearly £600,000 to support the next leaders in Parkinson's research

Parkinson’s UK has funded two future leaders in Parkinson’s research who are pushing forward our understanding of the early stages and causes of Parkinson’s.

New funding has been awarded to two researchers through our Fellowships programme: Dr Sophie Farrow at the University of Oxford and Dr Eduardo de Pablo-Fernandez at Queen Mary, University of London. The Fellowships will allow these researchers to devote their time to Parkinson’s research, work towards establishing their own independent research groups and help nurture them as the next generation of leaders in Parkinson's research.

What are Sophie and Eduardo aiming to do? 

Both researchers aim to add to our understanding of Parkinson’s by looking at the causes of the condition and ways to detect the condition earlier.

Dr Sophie Farrow has been awarded £300,000 to explore how and why some changes in certain genes can increase a person’s risk of Parkinson’s. She will look at different types of brain cells and use existing samples from people with Parkinson’s, such as blood samples and fluid from around someone's spinal cord, to try and build a better picture of how these genes are contributing to what goes wrong in Parkinson’s. 

Dr Sophie Farrow shares her aspirations for her research: 

“My long-term goal is to use genetic approaches to provide insight into the origins of Parkinson’s, to enable the development of preventative or curative treatments, as opposed to treating symptoms. I will integrate multiple genomic approaches to identify and prioritise potential drug targets, with the vision to accelerate early-stage drug target selection and repurposing for people with Parkinson’s.

“I am also eager to understand the considerable variability that exists between people with Parkinson’s. My research will have the potential to help us better understand how to use genetics to stratify people with Parkinson’s. This in turn will facilitate the development of targeted therapies tailored to unique genetic profiles of different individuals.”

Dr Eduardo de Pablo-Fernandez has been awarded £299,237 to help find a way to detect Parkinson’s earlier. He will do this by looking at people who experience symptoms related to sudden drops in blood pressure (pure autonomic failure) which can be an early sign of Parkinson’s. He will follow a group of 100 people over 2 years to look at their symptoms and blood tests to see how many individuals go on to develop Parkinson’s.

Dr Eduardo de Pablo-Fernandez shares his aspirations for his research: 

“In addition to leading an exciting study on a neglected area of Parkinson’s research, this fellowship represents an important step to become an established independent researcher. Results from this study will lay the foundation to create the first study in the UK to follow people with pure autonomic failure.

“Symptoms of pure autonomic failure can be the early signs of Parkinson’s. By understanding what symptoms and blood tests predict the development of Parkinson’s we will be able to detect the condition at the earliest stages, even years before typical motor symptoms develop. My focus on the early detection of Parkinson’s and testing new treatments in clinical trials will hopefully move us closer to a cure.”