First ASAP In-Person Meeting
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First ASAP In-Person Meeting

Author(s)
  • Maggie Kuhl

    Michael J. Fox Foundation | USA

    Maggie is Vice President of Research Communications at The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. Before joining the Foundation in 2013, she worked in communications at the National Human Genome Research Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and at the NIH Clinical Center.  

It was a reunion for some and a first union for many as members of ASAP’s Collaborative Research Network (CRN) gathered for their inaugural in-person meeting in early April. Teams that have built and begun complex research projects through Zoom calls now were together in the Bahamas to discuss their methods and aims face-to-face with each other and other network members.

The goal was connection and collaboration. The meeting did not disappoint.

The nearly 200 attendees representing all 35 CRN teams wasted no time getting down to the business of the week. While waiting for the hotel shuttle from the airport, the world’s leading basic scientists started debating disease-implicated pathways. On panels and in breakout sessions, even in line for the buffet lunch, attendees were sharing and collecting strategies to advance the field’s understanding of Parkinson’s etiology and pathology.

The formal program presented many opportunities for conversation and debate around the focus and process of Parkinson’s basic science. Echoing ASAP’s mission, the meeting aimed to encourage collaboration, generation and use of research-enabling resources, and data sharing.

Collaboration

“The hope, the dream, is to reinforce not just the interactions but the collaborations that are the basis of this effort … It’s through this collaboration that we feel key breakthroughs will come that lead inevitably to cures or treatments for this disease,” said ASAP Scientific Director Randy Schekman, PhD, in kicking off the first day of sessions.

Through 10 panels and presentations, attendees heard from scientific leaders on the framework for ASAP, general understanding of Parkinson’s pathology, and the evolution from target discovery to drug development. Most collaboration came, though, in the more than 25 breakout and workshop sessions where attendees kept the microphone runners busy with many raised hands and passionate back-and-forths.

In a post-event survey, 100 percent of respondents reported meeting someone they had never met. Ninety-four percent identified a potential collaboration, and 78 percent will reshape some of their own research based on learnings or connections from the meeting.

Resources and Data Sharing

Representatives from ASAP resource programs — Global Parkinson’s Genetics Program, Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative and iPSC Neurodegenerative Disease Initaitive — were present at the meeting, as well. Attendees learned of the data and biosamples from these programs available to them and debated the best analyses for limited resources such as brain tissue. They also discussed and elevated to ASAP leadership some of the challenges and needs around the unprecendented open protocol and data sharing mandated by the CRN such as legal consult on intellectual property protections.

After a week of powerful conversations, meeting attendees dispersed to their corners of the world ready to keep the momentum flowing, undoubtedly invigorated from their time together.