Three VCU researchers receive pilot grants for movement disorders research

Launched by the VCU Parkinson’s and Movement Disorders Center, a new program provides seed funding for multidisciplinary research initiatives.

The VCU Parkinson’s and Movement Disorders Center has awarded nearly $150,000 to three principal investigators at VCU through a new grant program. The PMDC Pilot Grants aim to fuel innovative, multidisciplinary research related to Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders, enabling the collection of preliminary data that are essential for the success of larger grant applications.

“This year's awardees are conducting some exciting and cutting-edge research that advances collaborative research at VCU and will help us meet our mission of providing lasting benefits for patients with movement disorders, their families and our community,” said Brian Berman, M.D., director of the VCU Parkinson’s and Movement Disorders Center and chair of the Division of Movement Disorders. Berman is a professor in the Department of Neurology and holder of the Bemiss Endowed Chair.

Conceptualized by a local advocacy group called the Movers and Shakers, the PMDC conducts groundbreaking research through laboratory-based, clinical, diagnostic, therapeutic and outreach programs, translating discoveries into real-world treatments for Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders. According to Berman, establishing a pilot grant program brings the PMDC closer to reaching its vision of becoming a premiere movement disorders center for innovative and impactful research.

These grants are supported by funds provided to the PMDC through philanthropy, the Commonwealth of Virginia and the VCU School of Medicine.

“Programs such as the PMDC Pilot Grants help support researchers as they begin to answer important scientific questions and provide a foundation for innovations that could have a profound impact on the lives of people in our community,” said Peter Buckley, M.D., dean of the VCU School of Medicine.

Recipients of the inaugural round of pilot funding include faculty from the School of Medicine, the School of Pharmacy and the College of Health Professions.

“By combining expertise across different disciplines, I believe these researchers will be able to answer bigger and more complex scientific questions and ultimately have a greater impact on the field,” said Berman.

Concurrently, the PMDC is launching an annual research symposium to further promote collaborative and multidisciplinary research. Pilot grant recipients will present their preliminary findings alongside presentations from others across VCU who are engaged in research related to movement disorders.

"I am extremely excited to see the breadth of research represented across the three awarded pilot grants, which span both basic and clinical research,” said Berman. “All three of the innovative projects are applying collaborative approaches to attempt to fill significant gaps in our understanding of Parkinson’s disease and dementia.”

PMDC Pilot Grant Awardees 2021-2022

  • Laxmikant Deshpande, Ph.D.
    Department of Neurology
    Epigenetic histone acetylation in the expression and treatment of environmentally-induced Parkinson’s Disease using the rat rotenone model ($50,000)
    Co-investigator: Joseph McClay, Ph.D. (Department of Pharmacotherapy and Outcomes Science, VCU School of Pharmacy)
  • Megan Rajagopal, M.D.
    Department of Neurosurgery
    Long-term effects of stimulation-induced neurogenesis in dementia rats ($50,000)
    Co-investigators: Dong Sun, M.D., Ph.D. (Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology); Laxmikant Deshpande, Ph.D. (Department of Neurology); Deepak Kumbhare, Ph.D. (Department of Neurosurgery)
    Mentor: Kathryn Holloway, M.D. (Department of Neurosurgery)
  • Alexander Stamenkovic, Ph.D.
    Department of Physical Therapy, VCU College of Health Professions
    Quantifying trunk rigidity in Parkinson's Disease: A potential marker for disease progression and intervention efficacy ($49,704)
    Co-investigator: Peter Pidcoe, D.P.T., Ph.D. (Department of Physical Therapy)
    Mentors: James Thomas, Ph.D. (Department of Physical Therapy), Leslie Cloud, M.D. (Department of Neurology)

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