PARKS biomarker signatures provide a precise definition of Parkinson’s disease from a blood sample. PARKS developed from an academic study of LRRK2 function. The PARKS team found that de novo synthesis of proteins is decreased in animal models of Parkinson’s disease and in patient skin cells compared to cells from healthy, age-matched individuals. We also identified that LRRK2 activity was increased in cells from sporadic patients, i.e. individuals without a known genetic cause. Based on these findings, we established a high throughput clinical proteomics pipeline to identify disease-defining signatures from patient blood. We are iteratively optimizing and validating these signatures across cohorts. Our main goal is to distinguish between Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders with overlapping symptoms.
The PARKS project is funded by the Michael J. Fox Foundation and Business Finland.
Eleanor Coffey – Project Leader, Neuroscience
Dr. Coffey is Research Director at Turku Bioscience Centre where she leads the Protein Kinase Function in Brain group. Her career in neuroscience spans 30 years investigating the molecular basis of neurological disorders. She and her team have identified key mechanisms contributing to nerve cell death and anxiety-like behaviors. Her team identified that LRRK2, a key player in Parkinson’s disease represses protein synthesis, leading to the initiation of PARKS.
Peter James – Expert, Mass Spectrometry
Dr. James is a pioneer of proteomics-based mass spectrometry. His research has focused over the last 30 years on the development of diagnostic tests for cancer and mass spectrometry-based methods development. He has 7 world-wide patents based on methodological advances in mass spectrometry. Also, he has advised venture capital companies specializing in early-stage biotech such as 3i, Atlas Ventures, and Sofinnova. Prof. James is responsible for mass spectrometry-based technology development for PARKS.
Valtteri Kaasinen – Expert, Movement Disorders
Dr. Kaasinen is a specialist in movement disorders. He diagnoses and treats patients with Parkinson’s disease in South-west Finland. He specializes in the use of functional brain PET and SPECT neurotransmitter imaging for Parkinson’s disease, other movement disorders, and behavioral addictions. He is involved in several projects that aim to improve the clinical value of brain dopamine transporter imaging for Parkinson’s disease and atypical parkinsonian disorders. Dr. Kaasinen is the clinical advisor for PARKS.
Dani Flinkman – Mass Spectrometry
Dani trained in mass spectrometry in Peter James’s lab in Sweden. He joined the PARKS team in 2016 and together with James, he has established next-generation proteomics methods at PARKS. Dani works on mass spectrometry analysis methods and data analysis.
Ye Hong – Bioinformatician
Ye is an experienced bioinformatician and mathematician with extensive knowledge gained during a period spanning >10 years in the US and Europe, in academia, and in the biotech sector. Ye has developed software pipelines for data analysis and signature recognition at PARKS.
Damien Kaukonen – Bioinformatician
Dr. Kaukonen has 6 years of experience doing bioinformatics analysis of genomic and single-cell transcriptome data. He has joined PARKS to perform the multivariate analysis of clinical data.
Veronica Fagerholm – Patient and Regulatory Affairs
Dr. Fagerholm has considerable experience working with clinical trial data management, working in a hospital and contract research organization setting. Veronica is responsible for quality management at PARKS.
Patrik Hollos – Commercialization coordinator
Dr. Hollos is a neuroscientist with expertise in coordination. He has worked in the Coffey laboratory since 2013. During this time he helped coordinate a €4.5 million EU project r’BIRTH ITN 2014-2017 involving 9 EU partners. He looks after marketing, legal aspects, business strategy, pitching for investors, pitching for customers.
Prasanna Deshpande – Disease mechanism
Dr. Deshpande has 10 years of experience in neuroscience. He investigates novel cellular mechanisms that may contribute to LRRK2 function in Parkinson’s disease. He is the first author of the article describing the biological mechanism on which the PARKS signatures are based.
Jelena Gnajatovic – Research scientist
Jelena joined PARKS to drive the mechanistic study. She is focused on gene editing approaches for proof of concept analysis of LRRK2 mechanism in animal models.
Our advisory board:
Steve Diggle, CEO Vulpes Investment Management, Singapore; Jeremy Haigh, Consultant UK (former CEO of Proteome Sciences, former COO Amgen Europe); Kyriacos Mitrophanous, CSO, Oxford Biomedica, UK; Juha Rouru, Director of Neurodegenerative Diseases, Orion Corporation, Finland.