James Beck, PhD: The Increased Need for Genetic Testing in Parkinson Disease

November 4, 2020
James Beck, PhD

The chief scientific officer at the Parkinson’s Foundation discussed PD GENEration, an initiative to provide genetic testing for patients with Parkinson disease.

"We’re moving to an era of precision medicine for Parkinson disease. As these experimental therapies go into clinical trials, we want people with Parkinson to participate in those trials.”

PD GENEration: Mapping the Future of Parkinson’s Disease, is an initiative from the Parkinson’s Foundation that offers free genetic testing and counseling for people with Parkinson disease (PD). Originally announced in 2019, the initiative was recently boosted by Sanofi, which announced it will provide $1 million in research funding to support.

Findings from PD GENEration will contribute to the biological understanding of the disease and help researchers assess the impact of each mutation and which of them may cause the disease. It was originally estimated that a genetic form of PD impacts between 5% and 10% of people with PD, but data from the PD GENEration pilot study found that number to be closer to 17%.

James Beck, PhD, chief scientific officer, Parkinson’s Foundation, feels as though an increased amount of genetic testing can benefit both the patient and clinician in a multitude of ways. One of the major goals of the study is to filter patients with genetic PD into clinical trials without needing an extra step of testing. Beck sat down with NeurologyLive to discuss the parameters of the initiative, and why genetic testing needs to be more streamlined as more precision medicine becomes available.