PDF Contributing Author:

James Beck, Ph.D., Vice President, Scientific Affairs


James Beck, Ph.D., is Vice President of Scientific Affairs at the Parkinson's Disease Foundation. Dr. Beck has led PDF's scientific affairs since he joined the organization in 2008. In this role, he oversees PDF’s research grants programs, including management of programs that support research centers, individual investigators, fellows and collaborative projects. View Dr. Beck's full biography on the PDF website at www.pdf.org/bio_beck.

Articles by this Author:

Vitamin D…Again?

From James Beck, Ph.D., Director of Research Programs A recent paper published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and picked up by the popular press provided some provocative evidence that vitamin D may provide a short term benefit to some people living with Parkinson’s disease.  PDF has covered the science regarding vitamin D for some time, for example in articles featured here and here. While the importance of vitamin D in people with PD is not new—most people with PD have too low a level—this paper now suggests that only some individuals may benefit from raising vitamin D levels…. read more Read More

Genetic Testing and You

From James Beck, Ph.D., Director of Research Programs The genetic testing company 23andMe recently announced that it had reached its goal of enrolling 10,000 people with Parkinson’s into its genetic testing program. I personally think that is fabulous. While genetic abnormalities that lead to Parkinson’s disease are rare, finding these cases has been a boon to understanding PD for all. From the location and then discovery of the first PD gene by PDF’s first supported fellow, Roger Duvoisin, M.D., and his colleagues in 1996 to the more recent genetic discoveries of today, PDF steadfastly supports research into understanding how genetics and… read more Read More

Vascular parkinsonism

From James Beck, Ph.D., Director of Research Programs Recently, former President George H.W. Bush revealed in an interview with PARADE Magazine that he has vascular parkinsonism. While not meeting the criteria for true Parkinson’s disease (PD), vascular parkinsonism mimics many features of PD.  As its name implies, vascular parkinsonism is often due to problems with the vessels in the brain regions that control movement and small strokes are the primary cause.  Although small strokes will cumulatively worsen the symptoms of vascular parkinsonism, it is otherwise not considered a progressive neurodegenerative disease like PD. People with vascular parkinsonism often experience a “lower… read more Read More

Grant Review at PDF

Today is a big day for many at PDF — it is our annual grant review. Of course, those most affected by what goes on in the big conference room will not be there. There are two groups who depend on tomorrow’s outcome: the scientists who have given us their best ideas for our scientific advisors to judge and the people who live every day with Parkinson’s and are counting on these great ideas to make a difference in their disease and their lives. I am confident that the team of scientists helping — members of our scientific advisory board… read more Read More

Understanding the FDA Committee’s Decision to Recommend Approval for Neurogenic Orthostatic Hypotension Drug

From James Beck, Ph.D., Director of Research Programs You may have read the recent news about the small pharmaceutical company,Chelsea Therapeutics, and their drug Northera™ (droxidopa). Chelsea recently received the recommendation of a FDA advisory committee to approve droxidopa as a treatment for neurogenic orthostatic hypotension or NOH for short. This recommendation was a big surprise since FDA documents released ahead of the committee meeting showed that agency staff members were clearly against approval; nevertheless, this approval recommendation will strongly influence the final decision expected to be made later this month. What is NOH? Normally, blood pressure increases as you… read more Read More

What Can Alzheimer’s Tell us About Parkinson’s?

From James Beck, Ph.D., Director of Research Programs Understanding how Parkinson’s disease starts and how it progresses remain two of the key unanswered questions about the disease. This is why a recent story in the New York Times caught my eye. The article described how two independent groups of scientists found evidence that Alzheimer’s disease may spread from brain cell to brain cell much like a virus. These scientists engineered mice to make a human form of a protein called tau in only one small part of the brain. Clumps of the tau protein are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease…. read more Read More