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Fox Foundation, Companies Create Research Tools Group

Illustration of brain (NIDA)

(National Institute of Drug Abuse)

The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research in New York and seven companies are joining in a consortium to systematize development and sharing of tools for studying Parkinson’s disease. The seven companies are Amicus Therapeutics, ApoPharma, Biogen Idec, Eli Lilly and Company, Pfizer, PsychoGenics and Upsher-Smith Laboratories.

The group, called the Parkinson’s Disease Research Tools Consortium, aims to make the development and sharing of research tools — such as pre-clinical models, antibodies and cell lines — more systematic and open. Under current practices, most tools created for Parkinson’s or related research, are project driven, resulting in unique products, which while useful to meeting immediate needs, can be difficult to replicate in other studies.

As a result, the development of tools, says the Fox Foundation, is a costly and time-consuming exercise, with validation limited to specific lab experiments. Even if researchers want to share the tools they develop, they run into legal and procedural obstacles like material-transfer agreements and intellectual property restrictions.

The new consortium seeks to reach consensus on common needs for research tools and build the tools collaboratively. Once agreement is reached on priorities, the consortium plans to establish projects led by a Fox Foundation staff member and a consortium company member. The foundation says it will use contracted research organizations to conduct the development work to minimize intellectual property issues.

The Fox Foundation, since 2010, offers scientific tools for the Parkinson’s research community at little or no cost. It’s current tools catalogue has 71 entries, mainly preclinical animal models, but also antibodies, biochemical assays, cell lines, proteins, viral vectors, and DNA plasmids — small DNA molecules separate from chromosomes, useful for cloning DNA fragments. The foundation’s tools are developed and distributed by outside organizations: Addgene, Covance, Epitomics, and The Jackson Laboratories.

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