Sep. 23  —  Sep. 24, 2024

Grand Challenges in Parkinson’s Disease

Grand Challenges in Parkinson’s Disease brings together hundreds of scientists, clinicians and people with Parkinson’s to explore the latest Parkinson’s research. This year’s symposium will highlight breakthroughs in our understanding of cell vulnerabilities, with a focus on how these advances inform new therapeutic strategies. Sessions will address:

  • Non-cell autonomous effects of Parkinson’s genes
  • Cell vulnerability
  • Cellular response to aggregates
  • iPSC modeling
  • Gene and immunotherapies
  • Cell replacement therapies.

Van Andel Institute and Cure Parkinson’s are thrilled to once again host Rallying to the Challenge, a meeting designed for and by people with Parkinson’s, advocates and care partners that delves into how the Parkinson’s community can impact and accelerate research.

For questions or to be added to our email list, please contact Courtney Zirkle.

Monday, September 23, 2024

9:00 am 

Welcome Remarks

Peter A. Jones, Ph.D., D.Sc. (hon)
9:05 am 

Introduction of Keynote Speaker

9:10 am 

Jay Van Andel Award for Outstanding Achievement in Parkinson’s Disease Research Lecture

Anders Björklund, M.D., Ph.D., Lund University

10:10 am 


10:25 am 


Session 1

10:40 am 

Ashley Harms, Ph.D.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham

11:10 am 

Laurie Sanders, Ph.D.

Duke University School of Medicine

Laurie Sanders, Ph.D.
11:40 am 

Lorraine Kalia, M.D.

University of Toronto

12:10 pm 


12:25 pm 

Poster Session and Lunch

Session 2

2:30 pm 

Caleb Webber, Ph.D.

UK Dementia Research Institute

3:00 pm 

Zhenyu Yue, Ph.D.

Mount Sinai

3:30 pm 

Le Zhang, Ph.D.

Yale University School of Medicine

4:00 pm 


4:15 pm 


Session 3

4:30 pm 

Sarah Shahmoradian, Ph.D.

UT Southwestern Medical Center

Sarah Shahmoradian, Ph.D.
5:00 pm 

Pam McLean, Ph.D.

Mayo Clinic

Pam McLean, Ph.D.
5:30 pm 

Omar El-Agnaf, Ph.D.

Qatar Biomedical Research Institute

6:00 pm 

Abstract Selected Talk


6:15 pm 


6:30 pm 

Poster session and dinner

Dinner tickets must have been purchased during registration

Tuesday, September 24, 2024

Session 4

9:00 am 

Cornelis Blauwendraat, Ph.D.

National Institutes of Health

9:30 am 

Richard Wade-Martins, M.A., D.Phil.

University of Oxford

10:00 am 

Edward Fon, M.D., FRCP(C)

McGill University

Edward Fon, M.D., FRCP(C)
10:30 am 

Abstract Selected Talk


10:45 am 


11:00 am 


Session 5

11:15 am 

Liz Ramsburg, Ph.D.

Spark Therapeutics

Liz Ramsburg, Ph.D.
11:45 am 

Francesca Capotosti, Ph.D.

AC Immune SA

Francesca Capotosti, Ph.D.
12:15 pm 

Pekka Kallunki, Ph.D.

H. Lundbeck A/S

Pekka Kallunki, Ph.D.
12:45 pm 


1:00 pm 


2:00 pm 

Report from International Linked Clinical Trials

2:30 pm 

Findings from the Rallying to the Challenge

2:50 pm 

Tom Isaacs Award Presentation

Session 6

3:15 pm 

Roger Barker, Ph.D.

University of Cambridge

3:45 pm 

Jeffrey Kordower, Ph.D.

Arizona State University

4:15 pm 

Asuka Morizane, M.D., Ph.D.

Kyoto University

4:45 pm 


5:00 pm 

Closing Remarks

University of Cambridge

National Institutes of Health

Associate Vice President, Preclinical Development
AC Immune SA

During Dr. Capotosti’s ten years of experience in biotech, she has focused on the discovery, preclinical and early clinical development of new therapeutic and diagnostic agents for neurodegenerative diseases, particularly Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. She currently leads the translational science group providing support and strategic guidance to multiple projects covering various targets, different therapeutic approaches, and spanning from discovery to Phase 2 clinical development.

Scientific Director, Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital (The Neuro)
Canada Research Chair in Parkinson’s Disease
Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery
McGill University

Dr. Edward A. Fon is a neurologist-scientist at the Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital (The Neuro) and a Professor in the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery at McGill University. He is the Scientific Director of The Neuro, the Director of the FRQS Quebec Parkinson Network and co-Director of the Canadian Open Parkinson Network (C-OPN). His research focuses on the molecular and cellular events leading to Parkinson’s disease (PD). His laboratory has made contributions to understanding the function and cell biology of PD genes and in understanding how defects in these genes lead to PD. He has established the infrastructure at The Neuro to study these genes and pathways in human patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), which can be differentiated into neurons, glia and 3D brain organoids. He is currently using these iPSC systems to establish a pipeline to better understand the role of lesser-studied PD genes, identified in recent genome-wide association studies (GWAS), in PD pathogenesis. As Scientific Director of The Neuro, he oversees its platforms including the Clinical Biological Imaging and Genetic repository (C-BIGr) and iPSC/CRISPR Early Drug Discovery Unit (EDDU), all under the auspices of The Neuro’s Open Science principles.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham

University of Toronto

Research Fellow in Protein Aggregation, Folding and Clearance
H. Lundbeck A/S

Dr. Pekka Kallunki is research scientist with 25 years experience in pharma working at H. Lundbeck A/S. He is a project lead on a number of internal projects at Lundbeck, as well as external funded by the Michael J. Fox Foundation and the European Union. His main interest is alpha-synuclein, and he developed in vitro, cellular and transgenic models for alpha-synuclein aggregation, and inhibition of seeding and aggregation by antibodies. For last fifteen years he is research project lead on therapeutic antibody for alpha-synuclein, which is now in clinical development for multiple system atrophy, entering phase III in near future.

Arizona State University

Pam J. McLean, Ph.D.
Professor of Neuroscience
Mayo Clinic

Pam McLean, Ph.D., is a Professor of Neuroscience at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville. Dr. McLean received her Bachelor of Science in biochemistry from the University of Glasgow in Scotland, and her Ph.D. in Pharmacology from Boston University School of Medicine. She received post-doctoral training at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. She has been at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville since 2012.  Dr. McLean’s research interests revolve around understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying neurodegeneration in Parkinson’s disease, dementia with Lewy bodies and related neurodegenerative disorders. In particular, her research group studies the role of alpha-synuclein, which misfolds and aggregates in brain regions that are critically involved in these diseases.

Head of Neuroscience Research
Spark Therapeutics

Dr. Ramsburg is an immunologist with many years experience in the development of vaccines and genetic medicines. Dr. Ramsburg began her academic career at Duke University where she was a member of the Duke Human Vaccine Institute and the Duke Virology Center. While at Duke Liz led a group aiming to develop vaccines and other countermeasures for emerging infections and HIV. In 2013, Liz joined Janssen Pharmaceuticals in the Netherlands, where she supported efforts to develop vaccines and gene therapies for neurodegenerative diseases. Liz joined Spark Therapeutics in 2021 as Head of Neuroscience Research where she manages all preclinical research within the Neuroscience therapeutic area.

Associate Professor of Neurology, Duke University School of Medicine
Scientific Director, Neurology Clinical Research Organization
Faculty Lead, Interventional Clinical Trials in Neurodegenerative Diseases at Duke Clinical Research Institute

Dr. Sanders is an associate professor within the Department of Neurology with a secondary appointment in Pathology at Duke University Medical Center. She is also a faculty member of the Duke Center for Neurodegeneration and Neurotherapeutics, Divisions of Movement Disorders and Translational Brain Sciences. Dr. Sanders received her B.S. from Cornell University and Ph.D. degree in biochemistry from the University at Buffalo. She completed her postdoctoral training in the Pittsburgh Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases at the University of Pittsburgh, during which she was recognized with The First Parkinson’s Action Network Postdoctoral Advocacy Prize. Dr. Sanders also completed a Masters Certificate in Clinical Research through The Institute for Clinical Research Education from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. In 2015 she was granted the William N. & Bernice E. Bumpus Foundation Innovation award for high risk/high reward ideas that could advance our understanding of Parkinson’s disease. She is the recipient of the 2020 Environmental Mutagenesis and Genomics Society Young Scientist Award. Dr. Sanders leads a translational neuroscience laboratory focused on age-related neurodegenerative diseases. She is also the owner of several awarded or pending patents in the development of biomarkers and neurotherapeutics. Dr. Sanders as the Faculty Lead directs the Interventional Clinical Trials in Neurodegenerative Diseases at the Duke Clinical Research Institute. In this capacity she currently leads a Phase II/III clinical trial for an Alzheimer’s disease therapeutic, as well as an early phase clinical trial with Parkinson’s disease participants.

Assistant Professor, UT Southwestern Medical Center
Sarah Shahmoradian received her Ph.D. in Molecular Physiology and Biophysics from the Baylor College of Medicine in 2013 working in the lab of Wah Chiu, where she applied cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) and tomography (cryo-ET) to uncover new structural mechanisms and features of neurodegenerative-relevant proteins. Her work explained how the eukaryotic chaperonin TRiC/CCT inhibits aggregation of mutant Huntingtin fibrils in vitro, structurally revealed how the N17 and proline-rich domains impact the formation of mutant Huntingtin fibrils, and the near-native structural basis of alpha-synuclein protein aggregation nucleating through liquid–liquid phase separation in vitro.
She completed her Roche Postdoctoral fellowship in the lab of Henning Stahlberg at the Biozentrum University of Basel, discovering that membranes and lipidic material are abundant in Lewy bodies and Lewy neurites (LB/LN) of Parkinson’s diseased-human brains. This caused a major re-evaluation of in vitro modeling of their formation, and emphasizes aberrant alpha synuclein-lipid interactions in Parkinson’s disease.
Dr. Shahmoradian joined the UTSW faculty in 2021. Her lab applies cryo-electron tomography and correlative light and electron microscopy to study the macromolecular basis of protein aggregation and membrane remodeling in Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases within neuronal systems. Her group also develops and applies new interfaces and enabling technologies to push the boundaries of these techniques.

University of Oxford

Mount Sinai

When is the Grand Challenges in Parkinson’s Disease symposium and Rallying to the Challenge meeting? How much does it cost?
Grand Challenges in Parkinson’s Disease and Rallying to the Challenge will take place Sept. 23–24, 2024. Registration will open in spring 2024 and close in September 2024.

  • $50 for trainees (graduate students and postdoctoral fellows)
  • $100 for non-trainees

How do I attend the Scientific Networking Dinner?
This year’s Scientific Networking Dinner will be held at the Amway Grand Plaza. Tickets are required and may be added during the registration process. Dinner and drinks are included in the fee.

What if I need or other accommodations?
Please contact Courtney Zirkle to discuss any special accommodation needs.

How do I become a sponsor?
Please contact Courtney Zirkle for more information on sponsorship opportunities.

What is the refund policy?
Refund requests must be made in writing to the Grand Challenges in Parkinson’s Disease by Sept. 14, 2024. After Sept. 14, refund requests will not be honored. If you are not able to attend, a substitute may attend in your place. The name and email address of the substitute must be emailed to Courtney Zirkle prior to Sept. 14, 2024.

Code of Conduct Guidelines
We are dedicated to providing a harassment-free, non-discriminatory symposium experience for all participants, regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability, pregnancy, height, weight, marital status, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or other personal characteristics covered by applicable law. We will not tolerate harassment of conference participants in any form. We expect participants at our events to engage in constructive and professional discussions at all times. Harassment can include unwelcomed attention, inappropriate comments or jokes that refer to gender differences, sexual topics, requests for dates, or other sexual activities as well as the use of language that may demean or degrade individuals. These behaviors are not appropriate for any of our conference venues, including talks, workshops, networking sessions, poster sessions, social networking platforms, and other online media platforms. Any participant violating these guidelines will be removed from the symposium at the discretion of the conference organizers.

Anyone who has experienced the above, or who has witnessed such behavior, should notify Courtney Zirkle. Anonymous reporting may also be done through the EthicsPoint Hotline.

Jay Van Andel Award for Outstanding Achievement in Parkinson’s Disease Research

The Jay Van Andel Award for Outstanding Achievement in Parkinson’s Disease Research was established in 2012 in memory of Van Andel Institute founder Jay Van Andel, who battled Parkinson’s disease for a decade before his death in 2004. The award is given to scientists who have made outstanding contributions to Parkinson’s disease research and who have positively impacted human health.

About Jay Van Andel

Entrepreneur and philanthropist Jay Van Andel, perhaps best known as the co-founder of Amway, founded Van Andel Institute in 1996 with his wife Betty. Mr. Van Andel saw opportunity in the landscape of his hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and imagined a thriving center for biomedical research, health care and the life sciences industry. He forged ahead in pursuing this dream despite his diagnosis of Parkinson’s, which eventually took his life in 2004.

In his autobiography, An Enterprising Life, Mr. Van Andel wrote, “Research into the causes and potential cures for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other diseases is promising but requires much more support…I hope that my own contributions to medical research will be followed by increased support from other entrepreneurs, charitable foundations, and concerned individuals.”

Past Winners

2023 — Virginia Y.M. Lee, Ph.D.
2022 — Anthony E. Lang, O.C., M.D., FRCPC, FAAN, FCAHS, FRSC
2021 — Ted Dawson, M.D., Ph.D.
2020 — Daniela Berg, M.D., and Ron Postuma, M.D., M.Sc.
2019 — Ellen Sidransky, M.D.
2018 — K. Ray Chaudhuri, M.D., FRCP, D.Sc.
2017 — J. William Langston, M.D.
2016 — Stanley Fahn, M.D.
2015 — Robert Nussbaum, M.D., and Maria Grazia Spillantini, Ph.D., FMedSci, FRS
2014 — Andrew John Lees, M.D., FRCP, FMedSci
2013 — Alim-Louis Benabid, M.D., Ph.D.
2012 — Andrew Singleton, Ph.D.

Rallying to the Challenge is a meeting designed for and by people with Parkinson’s, advocates and care partners that delves into how the Parkinson’s community can impact and accelerate research. It is co-hosted by Van Andel Institute and Cure Parkinson’s.

Details on the 2024 meeting will be posted in late spring/early summer 2024. To be added to our email list, please contact Courtney Zirkle.

Poster abstracts may be submitted during registration, which will open in spring 2024. For questions or to be added to our email list, please contact Courtney Zirkle.

Students, postdoctoral fellows, faculty and research staff are welcome to submit an abstract. If the number of submitted poster abstracts exceeds the space, the organizers will select the abstracts that are most relevant to the conference theme.

Abstract format
Submitted abstracts should represent original research. The title should be brief and descriptive, and the body should include rationale, methods and results. Please prepare abstracts using the below template.

Abstract submission
Poster abstracts should be submitted during the registration process.

Questions regarding abstract submission, posters, or the poster session can be directed to Courtney Zirkle.


Presenting Author1,2, Other Author1, and Last Author1,3(Style = Authors)

1First Dept., Institution, City, State, Country, 2Second Dept., Institution, City, State, Country, and 3Last Dept., Institution, City, State, Country (Style = Affiliations)

Body of abstract using 300 words or less. Define each abbreviation at first use. All fonts should be Arial, 11 pt. and text should be single-spaced. Once you have filled in this template, choose File>Save As and save your file as a Word document (.doc or .docx) with the filename lastname_abstract. (Style = Body)



Joe Smith1

1Department of Neurodegenerative Science, Van Andel Institute, Grand Rapids, MI, United States

The pathological hallmark of Parkinson’s disease (PD) is protein-rich, intraneuronal inclusions known as Lewy bodies and Lewy neurites, which are composed primarily of aggregates of misfolded a-synuclein (a-syn) protein. Recent studies suggest…

Grand Challenges in Parkinson’s Disease brings together hundreds of scientists, clinicians and people with Parkinson’s to explore the latest in Parkinson’s disease translational research.

Sponsorship Commitment Sponsorship Opportunities

For questions or to be added to our email list, please contact Courtney Zirkle.


About Grand Challenges

Grand Challenges in Parkinson’s Disease is an annual scientific symposium that brings together scientists, clinicians, advocates and people with Parkinson’s to explore the latest innovative Parkinson’s disease research.

Since it was established in 2012, Grand Challenges has grown into a multi-faceted symposium that draws attendees from across the globe. Previous themes have explored the role of non-motor symptoms, genes and pathways, disease-modifying therapies, inflammation, clinical trials and drug development.

Programs from previous years

2024 Scientific Program Committee

Darren Moore, Ph.D. (Co-Chair) — Van Andel Institute
Michael Henderson, Ph.D. (Co-Chair) — Van Andel Institute
Laurent Roybon, Ph.D. (Co-Chair) — Van Andel Institute
Omar M. El-Agnaf, Ph.D. — Qatar Biomedical Research Institute
Lorraine Kalia, M.D., Ph.D., FRCPC — University of Toronto
Mina Ryten, M.D., Ph.D. — University College London, Queen Square Institute of Neurology
Sarah Shahmoradian, Ph.D. — UT Southwestern Medical Center
Soania Mathur, B.Sc., M.D., CCFP — Patient Advocate

Local Planning Committee

Kayla Habermehl — Science Communications Specialist III, Van Andel Institute
Courtney Zirkle — Events and Meeting Specialist II, Van Andel Institute

For more information, please contact Courtney Zirkle..

About Rallying to the Challenge

In 2014, VAI and U.K.-based research charity The Cure Parkinson’s Trust held the first Rallying to the Challenge meeting in conjunction with Grand Challenges in Parkinson’s DiseaseRallying to the Challenge drew more than 100 influential advocates, people with Parkinson’s, and caregivers to the Institute to discuss how people with Parkinson’s can improve the clinical trial process. Over two days of talks, discussions and working groups, Rallying attendees laid the foundation for the beginnings of a patient charter and comprehensive toolkit to improve patient involvement in trials and to ensure their voices are heard.

About Van Andel Institute

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 500 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.

Event Details

Venue: Van Andel Institute 333 Bostwick Ave. NE Grand Rapids

Contact Info:

Email: Courtney Zirkle