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Rochester Experts Help Create New Parkinson's Disease Effort

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Two faculty members at the University of Rochester Medical Center have helped organize one of the largest international meetings ever to focus on Parkinson’s disease.

Howard Federoff, M.D., Ph.D., and Ira Shoulson, M.D., are part of the steering committee that created the first World Parkinson Congress, a major international forum bringing together scientists, physicians, caregivers, policy makers, and Parkinson’s patients in a new effort to prevent and treat the disease. In addition, Federoff has brought together the program of scientists and doctors who will discuss new strategies for addressing the disease.

The meeting, one of the broadest gatherings ever of people with an interest in Parkinson’s disease, with more than 3,000 participants, runs Feb. 22-26 at the convention center in Washington, D.C. Several other physicians, scientists and nurses from the University will present findings, including Steven Goldman, M.D., Ph.D.; Karl Kieburtz, M.D.; Roger Kurlan, M.D.; Jonathan Mink, M.D., Ph.D.; nurse Nancy Pearson; and Irene Richard, M.D.

Participants will discuss new developments in the laboratory, recent efforts at developing new drugs to treat the disease, as well as advice for caregivers and patients coping with the disease. Topics include disease prevention, the possible role of environmental agents like pesticides, biomarkers to help diagnose the disease in its earliest stages, and the role of genetic counseling.

“It has been a remarkable process creating the first World Parkinson Congress,” said Federoff. “The vibrant and rigorous program will appeal to patients, caregivers, clinicians, allied health professionals, and scientists. The best people from around the world are present, sharing their knowledge and experience about Parkinson’s disease.”

Federoff, the senior associate dean for basic research, has helped create the field of gene therapy for diseases of the central nervous system. He has pioneered the use of a harmless form of the herpes virus as a new way to treat Parkinson’s and other diseases, and his group has discovered many of the molecular steps that occur as Parkinson’s progresses. Federoff also founded the Parkinson’s Disease Gene Therapy Study Group, an effort that pulls together experts around the nation to evaluate the most promising strategies to fight the disease. He is a professor of Neurology, Medicine, and Microbiology & Immunology.

Shoulson is the founder of the Parkinson Study Group, a consortium of dozens of clinical investigators around the world who work together to conduct large studies of medications to prevent or treat the disease. Shoulson is internationally recognized for conducting such studies, which are crucial for developing new treatments; his approach bringing together scientists, doctors, nurses, statisticians and research participants is now a model for experts treating many types of diseases. Shoulson is the Louis C. Lasagna Professor of Experimental Therapeutics and professor of Neurology, Pharmacology, and Medicine.

The meeting is sponsored or endorsed by dozens of non-profit organizations and professional organizations. Among the supporters are the Movement Disorder Society, the U.S. Department of Defense, the National Institutes of Health, the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, the National Parkinson Foundation, and several private foundations and pharmaceutical firms.

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