Sanofi sponsors Parkinson's Foundation's genetic study with $1M for free testing

Sanofi and Parkinson's Foundation gene study recruitment card
The Parkinson's Foundation is sending postcards to help enroll Parkinson's patient in its Sanofi-backed gene study. (Parkinson's Foundation)

It's estimated that 10% to 15% of people with Parkinson's have a genetic form of the disease and Sanofi Genzyme is backing a new study to help find those people.

Working with the Parkinson's Foundation, the effort, called PD GENEration, will provide free genetic testing, either by in-person blood testing at selected sites or by a telemedicine appointment combined with at-home cheek swabs. Follow-up counseling will also be provided to discuss the results. Sanofi will contribute $1 million to the study over the next two years.

The goal of the testing is to identify the specific genetic status of people with Parkinson’s, which can lead to better identification for clinical trials and more personalized therapies.

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The Sanofi-backed study will inform participants when "trials become available that are relevant to their genetic status," James Beck, senior VP and chief scientific officer at the Parkinson’s Foundation, said in an email. 

"Because we are banking the DNA to share in a de-identified fashion, we are hopeful that the results obtained through this study will also impact future research to develop improved treatments and personalized medicine for Parkinson’s," he said.

Today, there are limited genetic testing options for people with Parkinson’s. The tests are often expensive and not covered by insurance, and they use a chip technology that may only identify a few point mutations on the genes linked to Parkinson's. The main issue, however, is that there is no genetic counseling, Beck said.

The response so far has been positive, with more than 500 people taking part and waiting lists already forming at the foundation’s existing sites, Beck said. The partners plan to add more testing sites at Parkinson’s Foundation Centers of Excellence across the country.

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Beck sees the collaboration between Sanofi and the Parkinson’s Foundation as a natural fit.

“Sanofi is a leading pharma company that shares our vision of improving the lives of those affected by PD," he said, adding that "it made perfect sense to join forces in this project."