Michael J. Fox Foundation taps Philly startup for Parkinson's research - Technical.ly Philly

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Oct. 26, 2018 11:32 am

Michael J. Fox Foundation taps Philly startup for Parkinson’s research

The Center City company, makers of a data platform for neuroscience research, will help researchers make sense of massive datasets.
Inside Blackfynn’s Center City offices.

Inside Blackfynn's Center City offices.

(Courtesy photo)

Think of the Michael J. Fox Foundation, founded by the Back to the Future star in 2000 after he revealed his Parkinson’s diagnosis, as the center of the ailment’s universe.

To date, the New York nonprofit has raised around $800 million for scientists looking to come up with novel Parkinson’s treatments.

And now, researchers backed by the foundation will get a little help from a Philly startup.

Center City-based Blackfynn, makers of a data analysis platform for neurological research, announced this week it has partnered with MJFF to aid scientists on their search of new treatments for Parkinson’s disease. The company’s platform will be used to search for insights from the landmark study, the Parkinson’s Progression Marker Initiative (PPMI).

“Our work with MJFF and the PPMI investigators will maximize the value of this important patient dataset and help drive novel discovery with the potential to lead to the development of effective therapies for patients with PD,” said Blackfynn President Amanda Christini. “Blackfynn will enable a new lens through which discoveries can be made, by looking at all raw and metadata together, in context, to find new patterns that are otherwise obscured when data are in isolation.”

PPMI is a longterm, multi-center study of more than 1,300 participants that looks to spot biomarkers of PD progression, with the goal of finding more efficient treatments.

Financial terms or length of partnership were not disclosed, but SVP of Engineering Chris Baglieri said in an email the partnership means Blackfynn now plays “critical roles in [the nonprofit’s] ecosystem and will help them find success.”

Kenneth Marek, the study’s principal investigator, said the partnership will help accelerate the analysis of data.

“By combining this rich, multimodal data with Blackfynn’s platform and data science expertise, we hope to uncover insights into the determinants of PD progression that will lead to new therapies and improved quality of life for patients with Parkinson’s disease,” Marek said.

Last November, Blackfynn announced it had received a $2.3 million award from the National Institutes of Health, as part of a project called Stimulating Peripheral Activity to Relieve Conditions (SPARC).

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