Sep. 27  —  Sep. 28, 2023

2023 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 in Parkinson’s disease translational research. The 2023 symposium, Pathophysiological Mechanisms to Therapeutics, will highlight recent research that advances our understanding of the disease and our path toward developing disease-modifying treatments. A diverse group of speakers in the Parkinson’s field will describe the latest developments in topics including the endolysosomal pathway, protein aggregation and pathologies, neural circuits affected by Parkinson’s, and brain-body interactions in disease initiation and progression.

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.

Registration opens in spring 2023. For questions, please contact Courtney Zirkle at [email protected].

When is Grand Challenges in Parkinson’s Disease and Rallying to the Challenge? How much does it cost?

Grand Challenges in Parkinson’s Disease and Rallying to the Challenge will take place September 27-28, 2023. Registration will open in spring 2023 and close in September 2023.

What if I need or other accommodations?

Please contact Courtney Zirkle at [email protected] to discuss any special accommodation needs.

How do I become a sponsor?

Please contact Courtney Zirkle at [email protected] 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. 23, 2023. After Sept. 23, 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 at [email protected]g prior to Sept. 23, 2023.

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 at [email protected] 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

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.

Poster abstracts may be submitted during registration, which will open in spring 2023. 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)



Jennifer Lamberts1 and Patrik Brundin1

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…

The annual Grand Challenges in Parkinson’s Disease symposium, one of the most comprehensive Parkinson’s and neurodegenerative disease events in the United States, will take place Sept. 27–28, 2023.

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. The 2023 symposium, Pathophysiological Mechanisms to Therapeutics, will highlight recent research that advances our understanding of the disease and our path toward developing disease-modifying treatments. A diverse group of speakers in the Parkinson’s field will describe the latest developments in topics including the endolysosomal pathway, protein aggregation and pathologies, neural circuits affected by Parkinson’s, and brain-body interactions in disease initiation and progression.

Sponsorship Opportunities

Interested in sponsoring Grand Challenges in Parkinson’s Disease? Please reach out to Courtney Zirkle at [email protected].

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

2023 Scientific Program Committee

Darren Moore, Ph.D. (Co-Chair) – Van Andel Institute
Michael Henderson, Ph.D. (Co-Chair) – Van Andel Institute
Hong-yuan Chu, Ph.D. (Co-Chair) – Van Andel Institute
Laura Volpicelli-Daley, Ph.D., – University of Alabama at Birmingham
Anastasia Henry, Ph.D. – Denali Therapeutics
Mark Cookson, Ph.D. – National Institute of Aging
Sonia Gandhi, Ph.D. – Francis Crick Institute, London
George Huntley, Ph.D. – Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Soania Mathur, B.Sc., M.D., CCFP – Patient Advocate

Local Planning Committee

Kim Cousineau — Project Manager I, Van Andel Institute
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 at [email protected].

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 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 www.vai.org.

Professor, Departments of Neurology, Neurobiology and Cell Biology
Lincoln Financial Group Professor of Neurobiology
Chief, Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorder division
Duke University Medical Center

Nicole Calakos, M.D., Ph.D., is a physician-scientist who cares for patients with movement disorders and maintains an active laboratory research program. Dr. Calakos is the Lincoln Financial Group Professor of Neurology and Neurobiology and Chief of the Movement Disorders section in Neurology at Duke University Medical Center. Her laboratory studies how synaptic plasticity generates learning and adaptive behavior; and how its disruption causes diseases of the basal ganglia circuitry. The Calakos Lab is widely recognized for its contributions to understanding habit formation, compulsive behavior and dystonia and for the generation of new methodologies to study basal ganglia physiology.

Dr. Calakos received her bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Berkeley, her M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from Stanford University, and residency training in neurology at the University of California at San Francisco.

Dr. Calakos’ contributions have been recognized through a number of awards, leadership and service opportunities. She is a member of the National Academy of Medicine, fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, and 2023 recipient of the ASCI Korsmeyer award. Dr. Calakos advocates for basic and translational neuroscience through these organizations and activities that have included: the Board of Directors for the American Neurological Association, governance committee for the Duke University Institute for Brain Sciences and scientific advisory boards for disease foundations.

Assistant Professor, Department of Neurodegenerative Science

Dr. Hong-Yuan Chu received his Ph.D. in pharmacology from Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica. He then completed postdoctoral training at the National Institute of Mental Health and Northwestern University. In 2019, he joined Van Andel Institute’s Department of Neurodegenerative Science as an assistant professor. Dr. Chu serves as a reviewer for eLifeJournal Parkinson’s Disease, the Frontiers journals, and others. He is the recipients of several awards, including the prestigious 2020 BBRF Young Investigator award.

Director/Principal Scientist at Denali Therapeutics

Anastasia (Stacy) Henry leads a team of scientists within the Pathway Biology group at Denali Therapeutics.  Her lab is focused on understanding the mechanisms by which disease-associated proteins affect lysosomal function and ultimately contribute to pathogenesis, enabling the development of novel therapeutic approaches to treat Parkinson’s disease and neuronopathic lysosomal storage disorders.  She leads biology efforts to support the LRRK2 kinase inhibitor programs at Denali and to explore the role of lysosomal function in neurodegeneration more broadly. Dr. Henry received her Ph.D. from the University of California, San Francisco in the lab of Mark von Zastrow and her postdoctoral training in the neuroscience department at Pfizer in the lab of Warren Hirst.

Assistant Professor of Neuroscience, Weill Cornell Medicine

Dr. Sharma’s lab studies neurodegenerative diseases, using molecular-cellular techniques, patient-derived induced neurons, as well as mouse genetic models. He studied microbiology for his undergraduate degree. During his Ph.D. thesis with Dr. Gergely Lukacs, he trained as a molecular cell biologist, while studying misfolding and quality-control of the cystic fibrosis protein CFTR. He applied this training to neuroscience during his postdoctoral training with Dr. Tom Südhof, and acquired mouse genetics skills, in order to study animal models of human neurodegenerative diseases (Burré et al., 2010; Sharma et al., 2011). As an Assistant Professor of Neuroscience at Weill Cornell Medicine, Dr. Sharma’s lab studies neurodegenerative disorders at the molecular-cellular level, including their pharmacological correction-strategies (Naseri et al. 2020; Xie et al. 2022), frequently in collaboration with Dr. Jacqueline Burré’s lab.

Assistant Professor, Aarhus University

Dr. Van Den Berge pursued her education in Belgium and U.S.A. in three different engineering disciplines: Construction (M.Sc.Eng.), industrial (M.Sc.Eng.) and biomedical (Ph.D.). Subsequently, she moved to Denmark to join Professor Per Borghammer’s group as postdoc. Today, Dr. Van Den Berge is an independent Group Leader at the Department of Clinical Medicine, Aarhus University, and at the Nuclear Medicine Department & PET Center, Aarhus University Hospital. Driven by her passion to uncover complex mechanisms through multi-disciplinary techniques, Dr. Van Den Berge decided to pursue a career in multi-disciplinary research, which encompassed health, natural and engineering sciences. Dr. Van Den Berge has made great contributions to Parkinson’s research by developing the first body-first Parkinson’s disease animal model (Acta Neuropathol, 2019; Brain, 2021). Despite the increasing evidence that Parkinson’s disease may begin outside of the brain years before motor symptoms appear, most research has focused on modelling the disease in the brain only. Dr. Van Den Berge’s model closely replicates the human disease and involves peripheral organs and old age, providing a breakthrough in the field. This accomplishment has opened a new avenue of research that may provide invaluable insight into the early stages of Parkinson’s and help to identify new disease-modifying treatment targets.

Associate Professor Neurology, University of Alabama at Birmingham

Dr. Volpicelli-Daley earned her B.A. in Math and English Literature in college. Her Ph.D. in Neuroscience was earned at Emory University in the lab of Allan Levey, M.D., Ph.D. expert in Alzheimer’s disease and dementias. She also trained in cell biology at Yale University and neurodegenerative disease at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Volpicelli-Daley is currently associate professor with tenure at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her lab focuses on the how pathologic aggregates of alpha-synuclein contribute to motor and cognitive symptoms in Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementias. She is director of a Graduate Neuroanatomy Course and Director of an M.D./Ph.D. course about research in basic sciences. She was awarded the UAB Graduate Dean’s Excellence in Mentorship Award and Outstanding Roadmap Scholars Research Mentor Award.

Assistant Professor, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Dr. Amanda Woerman received her B.A. in botany/microbiology and politics and government from Ohio Wesleyan University in 2008, and her Ph.D. in molecular medicine from The George Washington University in 2013. In July 2013, Dr. Woerman joined Dr. Stanley Prusiner’s laboratory at UCSF as a postdoctoral fellow, where she developed cellular assays for characterizing tau and alpha-synuclein prion strains in neurodegenerative disease. Dr. Woerman joined the faculty at UMass Amherst as an assistant professor in September 2019, where her lab is focused on using strain biology to develop novel diagnostics and therapeutics for neurodegenerative diseases.

Dr. MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology

Yang Yang’s research interest is assembling and accumulation mechanisms of various amyloids in Neurodegenerative diseases. Dr. Yang completed her Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular biology at the Institute of Biophysics (IBP), Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2017. Then she worked as a research associate in the laboratory of Dr. Zihe Rao focusing on the research of GPCR and Gi-protein complex. Yang started her postdoctoral training in Dr. Sjors Scheres’ laboratory at the Medical Research Council, Laboratory of Molecular Biology to determine the structures of amyloid filaments. Yang explored and characterized the cryo-EM structures of amyloid-β (Aβ) filaments from human brains with Alzheimer’s disease, and α-synuclein filaments from Parkinson’s disease and dementia with Lewy bodies.

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