In this candid and exclusive interview Michael J. Fox talks about how he became a leading advocate for Parkinson's research, and how his foundation is actively working with big pharmaceutical companies to discover ways to improve the lives of people living with Parkinson's.
Catch the full interview with Michael on our New Year's Eve Special tonight at 11:30 pm on CBC TV.
In this clip, Fox talks about...
Why it's important to work with the corporate sector to advance Parkinson's research and development
The thing that I realized is that the federal government that funds a certain amount of research of academia, (then) you have pharma who are involved in research but it's a silo - no one is funding the department of cures, there's no impetus to move this forward. So what we set out to do was tipping that silo over and making that silo a pipeline.
People wanna hear, they say 'what are you doing at the foundation? Is there anything close?' and they wanna hear 'Yeah, we found this pine nut that if you squeeze the oil out is a cure!' but it doesn't work that way.
You have to engage pharma, you have to get them motivated, and for them to get a drug to market costs a billion dollars and takes ten years to be approved by the government. So we have to be disruptive, and one of the things we do for example is we fund pharmaceutical companies - which may sound odd because they have billions of dollars but there might be a crucial part of the pipeline that we think has promise - whether it's for Parkinson's directly or whether it's for a similar syndrome... whatever it is we'll go to the drug company and say we'll de-risk this for you, we'll give you 5 million dollars to do this part of the research - and that's never happened before, and that's paid off in some cases.
It's captured the interest of some bigger drug companies' that have picked up that research and carried it on. We've got a big research project going on which is a way to find a common indicator in all Parkinson's patients that will tip us off before symptoms are evident.
By the time symptoms are evident, by the time my pinky twitched, 80% of the dopamine producing cells in my brain were already dead. So if we can find a marker, then we can identify along the way the progression of the disease and we can treat it earlier. And if we can find a drug that halts symptoms and halts progression that might not be in pure sense a "cure" but it's as good as a cure.