Letter from Leadership: My Take on PDF’s Strategic Plan

erobin.jpgIf you have read the cover article in the Fall 2015 issue of our newsletter, News & Review, you already know that PDF has created a strategic plan to strengthen and accelerate our fight to advance the cure, and care, of Parkinson’s disease.

As I enter my 20th anniversary year as chief executive officer of the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, the new plan is both sobering and exciting.

Sobering, because it follows a decade in which the number of new treatments for Parkinson’s has slowed, and the availability of federal dollars for research has stagnated — which means that people have come to terms with the reality that the race to end PD is not a sprint but a marathon.

Exciting, because that same decade has provided important lessons upon which new interventions can be designed to move the needle on PD research. Here are three that we at PDF are applying through our work:

First, continuing to support innovative programs, while focusing greater attention on the people behind them — scientists, clinical leaders and patient advocates. Too often, plans focus heavily on a single scientific idea — the role of one gene or one cellular pathway in PD. The reality is that ideas will often fail. Leaders must be able to regroup and diversify their approach. By empowering leaders — such as Oren Levy, M.D., Ph.D. — to think and act nimbly and imaginatively, we are investing not only in today’s hot topics, but also in tomorrow’s opportunities.

Second, working to promote scientific collaborations. It is common to talk the talk about research as a collaborative enterprise, but at PDF we also walk the walk. In our efforts to support teams, to pursue ideas “crowd-sourced” from the community, or to convene scientists to study unmet needs, our aim is the same: to bring together talented people with unique perspectives to find solutions.

Third, disseminating scientific information to the community. In addition to our long-time commitments to distributing free educational programs, and to training and deploying lay Research Advocates for advisory roles with companies, government agencies and patient groups, we are looking for new opportunities to invest in this vital area. The newest example is our recent move to create — in partnership with Nature Publishing Group — what we hope will become the leading online journal of Parkinson’s science.

Pouncing on opportunities like these will give PDF the chance to turn “sobering” into “exciting” — to transform the way PD research is done and care is delivered.

What do you think of PDF’s plan? Weigh in with your thoughts below.

This post first appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of the PDF Newsletter, News & Review.

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