Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a chronic, progressive brain disease and is the second most common brain disease after Alzheimer’s. With an estimated five to 10 percent of people experiencing onset of the disease at age 40 or younger, the Foundation works every day toward finding a cure for the estimated five million people living with Parkinson’s worldwide. Since 2000, it has funded more than $650 million in research.
What inspired you to help launch The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF)?
Michael was the first person I met with Parkinson’s disease, so there was a tremendous learning curve to understand the community and the needs of people who live with the disease. We first met during my interview for CEO of the Foundation. I was drawn not only to who he was as a person, but also to what he wanted to accomplish — something simple and yet, audacious— figuring out how to make a difference.Michael had a gut instinct to go beyond the work of many disease charities that focus on community services and go for a cure for Parkinson’s disease. He also had a clear, almost viscerally informed vision for the values that he aspired to instill in every facet of the work. I knew that helping him build something from scratch presented a unique challenge and a welcomed opportunity to make a tangible impact.
How does MJFF work toward a cure for Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s disease affects an estimated five million people worldwide and there is currently no known cure. As the world’s largest nonprofit funder of Parkinson’s research, the Foundation works tirelessly to assess the field, prioritize the best research ideas (even if others won’t fund them) and work through challenges and roadblocks. Since our start, we’ve committed to being efficient with donor dollars, consistently spending 89 cents of every dollar toward research programs. We’re dedicated to that financial productivity but even prouder of what we do with the 89 cents: MJFF gets funds out to scientists quickly — usually within three months or less. We’ve been very transparent from day one: We are in business to get out of business and close our doors.