Several events were held under the umbrella of Grand Challenges in Parkinson’s Disease, a world-class scientific symposium that draws scientists from around the globe to discuss their latest research and clinical efforts. Now in its fourth year, Grand Challenges continues to expand and included a parallel conference called Rallying to the Challenge, led by The Cure Parkinson's Trust and Parkinson’s Movement. This year, the Van Andel Institute (VARI) was pleased to also host the debut of the photo exhibit This is Parkinson’s by Anders Leines as well as a book signing of 'Brain Storms' by award-winning science journalist Dr. Jon Palfreman.

Since its inception in 2012, Grand Challenges in Parkinson’s Disease has provided a forum for scientists and the Parkinson’s community to collaborate. This year’s theme is The Role of Alpha-Synuclein, explored the role of an abnormal form of a protein important in the disease mechanisms that underlie Parkinson’s. Clumps of alpha-synuclein are found in the brains of people with Parkinson’s and research published in the past 18 years has shown a strong link between misfolding of this protein and the disease.

“Having representatives from all the key groups in the Parkinson’s research community—scientists, clinicians, industry, advocates and people with Parkinson’s—under one roof is extraordinarily valuable,” said Patrik Brundin, M.D., Ph.D., director of VARI’s Center for Neurodegenerative Science. “New insights and opportunities for creative collaborations can emerge from the scientific presentations or a simple conversation during a coffee break.”

VARI also presented the Jay Van Andel Award for Outstanding Achievement in Parkinson’s Disease Research to Robert Nussbaum, M.D., and Maria Grazia Spillantini, Ph.D., FMedSci, FRS, for their groundbreaking discoveries regarding alpha-synuclein and its role in Parkinson’s