Parkinson’s disease symposium and advocate meeting go virtual for 2020

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (June 15, 2020) — For the first time, Grand Challenges in Parkinson’s Disease and Rallying to the Challenge, Van Andel Institute’s flagship annual Parkinson’s disease symposium and its parallel meeting for people with Parkinson’s hosted in partnership with The Cure Parkinson’s Trust, will be held virtually.

Grand Challenges in Parkinson’s Disease will take place Sept. 23–25, 2020, while Rallying to the Challenge will be held Sept. 24–25, 2020. Both events are free this year, and, like previous in-person meetings, participants will be able to attend both scientific- and advocate-focused

Photo courtesy of Dr. Daniela Berg

sessions. Registration is required and can be completed at grandchallengesinpd.org.

“The format shift from in-person to virtual will enable scientists, physicians and people with Parkinson’s from around the world to attend Grand Challenges in Parkinson’s Disease and Rallying to the Challenge safely while maintaining the collaborative environment for which these events are known,” said Lena Brundin, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor at VAI and co-chair of this year’s symposium.

Each year, Grand Challenges in Parkinson’s Disease and Rallying to the Challenge bring together scientists, medical professionals and Parkinson’s advocates from across the globe to explore the latest breakthroughs in Parkinson’s research and treatment. This year’s events — featuring scientific talks by 16 invited speakers, a research poster session and advocacy discussions — will focus on the origins and development of Parkinson’s, including potential triggers, the early symptoms and stages of the disease, and how findings may be translated into new diagnostic methods, such as biomarkers.

During the symposium, VAI will present the Jay Van Andel Award for Outstanding Achievement in Parkinson’s Disease Research to Daniela Berg, M.D., and Ronald Postuma, M.D., M.Sc., for their groundbreaking efforts to identify the earliest symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and to translate their findings into new diagnostic criteria. Dr. Berg is the chair and director of the Department of Neurology at Christian-Albrechts-University in Kiel, Germany. Dr. Postuma is a professor of neurology at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Ron Postuma

“The work of Dr. Berg and Dr. Postuma is revolutionizing how Parkinson’s disease is viewed and will help change how it is treated in the future,” said Hong-yuan Chu, Ph.D., an assistant professor at VAI and symposium co-chair. “We are thrilled to recognize their exceptional achievements.”

VAI and The Cure Parkinson’s Trust also are accepting nominations for the Tom Isaacs Award, which recognizes individuals who have involved people with Parkinson’s in research and/or made a major difference in the lives of people with the disease. The award is named in honor of Trust co-founder and renowned Parkinson’s advocate Tom Isaacs, who passed away in 2017. Nominations close Aug. 1, 2020. For more information on the award and nominations, please visit www.cureparkinsons.org.uk/forms/the-tom-isaacs-award-nomination-2020.

More information on Grand Challenges in Parkinson’s Disease and Rallying to the Challenge may be found on grandchallengesinpd.org.


Van Andel Institute (VAI) is committed to improving the health and enhancing the lives of current and future generations through cutting edge biomedical research and innovative educational offerings. Established in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1996 by the Van Andel family, VAI is now home to more than 400 scientists, educators and support staff, who work with a growing number of national and international collaborators to foster discovery. The Institute’s scientists study the origins of cancer, Parkinson’s and other diseases and translate their findings into breakthrough prevention and treatment strategies. Our educators develop inquiry-based approaches for K-12 education to help students and teachers prepare the next generation of problem-solvers, while our Graduate School offers a rigorous, research-intensive Ph.D. program in molecular and cellular biology. Learn more at vai.org.

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