CPT advocates Steve DeWitte (above left) and Israel Robledo (above right) were both recently awarded The Alan Bonander Humanitarian Award, given to individuals in recognition of their exemplary contribution to the Parkinson’s community. Alan Bonander was a person with Parkinson's who selflessly devoted his time to patient advocacy through research and direct interaction with physicians. 

For Steve DeWitte and Israel Robledo, their Parkinson’s disease is credited with elevating their unlikely partnership as internationally recognised Patient Advocates, to a rich personal friendship that has allowed each to be called upon to share the message of the value of collaboration in research, and the role the 'patient voice' has in pursuit of a cure. They quickly point out, as is regularly reported, that each person’s journey with Parkinson’s disease is unique. 

Steve remembers reading some of Israel’s first blogs on the subject, and feeling encouraged by the common answers he derived as a fellow 'Young Onsetter'. Both also credit the Parkinson’s Foundation (formerly the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation) for making their initial introduction through their participation as graduates of the PAIR (Parkinson’s Advocates in Research) Programme. Common pathways continued to appear, as each accepted various appointments to advocacy committees, and had the opportunities to share philosophies on both their personal battles and ways they could 'make a difference'.

Their association as 'brother’s in the cause' was sealed when they were appointed as US Ambassadors to the 2013 World Parkinson’s Congress in Montreal.  It was through this association that they each met Tom Isaacs, co-founder of The Cure Parkinson’s Trust (CPT).  Each credits Tom with being the driving force behind the importance of a multi-stakeholder collaborative approach in the pursuit of disease modifying treatments for Parkinson’s disease. 

Tom recruited Steve & Israel as patient leaders in Parkinsons Movement North America, and through that affiliation both began serving as delegates in CPT's Linked Clinical Trials (LCT) initiative. The LCT initiative identifies potential new therapies for Parkinson’s from drugs approved to treat other conditions which have demonstrated neuroprotective effects in preclinical experiments. By using drugs that already have passed rigorous safety and toxicology trials, the LCT aims to significantly cut the amount of time it takes for a potential treatment to move from the laboratory to clinical trials and, ultimately, to the patient. Both agree,

It can feel intimidating to be in this room with the leading researchers, and wonder how we can possibly contribute something of significance without having a scientific background

Fortunately, all in the room recognised the important role each plays and the strength that occurs through their collective contributions.  The LCT initiative has evaluated 120 compounds since inception 5 years ago, and currently have 8 of these in clinical trials. 

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Steve & Israel would like to thank their families, friends, fellow advocates, the many supportive stakeholders, The Parkinson Alliance and the Award Committee for their selection of the prestigious award.  They accept this award on behalf of the many advocates that are “making a difference.” 

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