Parkinson's disease nerve cells, illustration
Credit: Kateryna Kon / Science Photo Library

The Michael J. Fox Foundation will collaborate with omics-focused Centogene to research and confirm genetic and other omics-related risk factors for Parkinson’s disease.

Centogene, which is headquartered in Germany, has a large biodatabank including samples from more than 800,000 people from more than 120 countries. This biobank includes data from thousands of patients with Parkinson’s disease collected from the ongoing Rostock International Parkinson’s Disease Study (ROPAD).

The company will collaborate with the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, a U.S.-based non-profit organization, to try and better understand the link between mutations in the glucosylceramidase beta (GBA) gene and Parkinson’s.

“Understanding the different factors that actually cause Parkinson’s disease are critical to advancing treatments and ultimately finding a cure,” said Shalini Padmanabhan, Vice President, Discovery & Translational Research at The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, in a press statement.

“This project with Centogene will play a pivotal role in our global efforts to better understand the genetic factors of Parkinson’s, leveraging their robust multiomic datasets that they have built over the past 15 years.”

Parkinson’s disease is a multifactorial condition. The cause of the condition is unknown, but several factors are known to play a role including age, exposure to environmental factors such as smoking and pesticide chemicals, and genetics.

Carriage of some genetic risk variants is thought to increase the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease and around 15% of people diagnosed with the condition have at least one affected relative. As of 2022, variation in at least 90 different areas in the genome had been linked to Parkinson’s, but some genes have a stronger link to the condition than others, for example, LRRK2 and GBA (also known as GBA1). Mutations in GBA are known to be one of the most common genetic risk factors for the condition and are found in 5-10% of people with Parkinson’s.

The ROPAD study was set up by Centogene to study the impact of genetic variation on Parkinson’s disease risk and progression. It enrolled its first participant in 2019 and plans to recruit people until the end of 2025 with a goal of recruiting up to 25,000 Parkinson’s disease patients. Individuals with specific mutations recruited to the study may be eligible for later inclusion in clinical trials of drugs or therapies developed by pharma or biotech partners of Centogene.

“By combining the Michael J. Fox Foundation’s extensive expertise and resources with our deep understanding of the links between rare and neurodegenerative diseases, we will be able to generate pivotal multiomic insights into the role of specific variants in the GBA gene,” said Peter Bauer, Chief Medical & Genomic Officer at Centogene.

“By providing a more complete understanding of the way that the GBA gene interacts with multiple biological pathways, we can elucidate targets that can be used to develop more precise disease-modifying therapeutics for Parkinson’s patients in the future.”

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