Michael J Fox Foundation visits Luxembourg

Members of The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF) visited the research facilities of the national Parkinson’s disease study – IBBL (Integrated Biobank of Luxembourg), the LCSB of the University of Luxembourg and the Parkinson Research Clinic – on 21-22 April 2017.

“We are impressed with what has been developed in Luxembourg in such a short period of time,” said Mark Frasier, PhD, senior vice president of MJFF Research Programs, who was one of the visitors.

MJFF is dedicated to finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease (PD) through an impressively funded research agenda and ensuring the development of improved therapies for those living with Parkinson’s today. To reach this aim, it connects philanthropists, academia, industry, clinicians and allied health care providers, and those living with the disease across the globe. The visit to Luxembourg allowed the MJFF members to learn about Luxembourg’s PD research agenda, to align strategies and further develop existing joint projects.

“We are honoured by the visit of members of the MJFF scientific staff as it indicates the strong integration of Luxembourg-based research into the ongoing international efforts on developing novel strategies for the diagnosis and treatment of Parkinson’s disease,” said Prof. Rejko Krüger, clinical coordinator of the National Centre of Excellence in Parkinson’s Disease (NCER-PD) research programme.

The three guests were first welcomed at the LCSB on Campus Belval with presentations on the recent developments of the NCER-PD research programme. Discussions around clinical cohort design, data analytics and visualisation as well as microbiome research showed the interdisciplinary approach of Luxembourg’s research team to find new biomarkers for diagnosis and patient stratification.

Afterwards the guests visited the Parkinson’s Research Clinic at the Centre Hospitalier de Luxembourg and the biobank of Luxembourg IBBL – two institutions that play an essential role in the recruitment of patients to the Luxembourg Parkinson’s study as well as processing and storage of their provided data and samples.

A biobank is a place that collects, processes, stores and distributes biological samples, such as blood, and their associated information. In 2016, IBBL collected for the programme about 3,350 samples of blood, urine, saliva, stool and skin biopsies, as well as some clinical information from just over 380 patients and healthy donors from Luxembourg and the Greater Region. All data are pseudonymised so that neither the team at IBBL nor the researchers will ever be able to identify the donors. The collection is now stored at the biobank for an indefinite period of time, until the coded samples are distributed and used for medical research purposes.

“The sample quality is a determining factor in the outcomes of a research project. Within NCER-PD, IBBL’s scientific team has developed quality control tests to ensure that researchers receive samples of high and uniform quality,” comments Marc Vandelaer, CEO at IBBL. “Additionally, this guarantee of quality maximizes the contribution of donors, who have widely embraced and allied with the common goal of finding new ways to diagnose and cure Parkinson’s disease.”

A joint project on miRNA-based biomarkers in PD is currently under discussion between MJFF, Saarland University and the LCSB. It is likely that the Luxembourg Parkinson’s cohort will serve as a validation tool.

Photo credits: Michel Brumat.