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Alpha-Synuclein Imaging Prize

The Michael J. Fox Foundation is sponsoring a $2 million prize to the first team that develops a viable selective alpha-synuclein PET tracer and agrees to make that tracer available broadly.

About the Prize

The ability to image alpha-synuclein deposition in the brain would be a game-changing achievement for the Parkinson's disease field. The accumulation of aggregated alpha-synuclein is a pathological hallmark of Parkinson's and a priority target for drug development given its hypothesized contribution to neurodegeneration.

In vivo imaging of alpha-synuclein pathology could be useful as a biomarker for the presence of disease and disease progression and as a pharmacodynamic tool for drug development. With a $2 million prize, The Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) seeks to attract research teams and accelerate momentum to speed the development of such a tracer.

Eligibility, Selection Criteria and Process

Anyone is eligible for the prize who agrees to all contest rules. Contestants do not necessarily have to be funded by MJFF and can be from either academia or industry.

Contest rules:

  1. All contestants must apply for the prize with preclinical and clinical data supporting the broad use of their alpha-synuclein radiotracer. Judges may ask for additional data, including but not limited to raw imaging data.
  2. Contestants must agree to make the winning radiotracer available for use by the Foundation and MJFF awardees through a nonexclusive license or other MJFF-approved mechanism.

The winning contestant must demonstrate that the radiotracer binds with relatively high selectivity to alpha-synuclein according to prespecified criteria. Proof-of-concept in human subjects, including people with Parkinson's disease and/or another synucleinopathy, must also be demonstrated.

There is no deadline for submissions. The $2 million award will be issued to the first contestant who submits compelling evidence of a viable selective tracer and agrees to its widespread use. 

Submission Requirements

Preclinical Evidence:

  1. Radiosynthesis method enabling feasible radiolabeling with 11°C or 18°F (or both) at >20% yield, high specific activity
  2. Selective binding to alpha-synuclein-rich brain tissue (versus amyloid-beta or tau-rich tissue)
  3. Proof-of-concept in alpha-synuclein preclinical models (preferred but not required)

Human Studies:

  1. Acceptable biodistribution with adequate brain uptake
  2. Acceptable metabolite profile
  3. Proof-of-concept evidence of robust in vivo kinetics that enable quantification of alpha-synuclein binding (e.g., by kinetic modeling)
  4. In vivo binding patterns consistent with the expected distribution of alpha-synuclein pathology per population (e.g., PD, dementia with Lewy bodies, multiple system atrophy)
  5. Selective in vivo binding to alpha-synuclein pathology [little nonspecific uptake, no binding to other pathologies (e.g., amyloid-beta, tau)]

Judging Panel

Judge Title Institution
Hartmuth Kolb, PhD Head of Neuroscience Biomarkers Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc (Johnson & Johnson)
Satoshi Minoshima, MD, PhD Professor and Chairman, Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences University of Utah
Julie Price, PhD Visiting Professor of Radiology Massachusetts General Hospital
Gil Rabinovici, MD Associate Professor, Department of Neurology University of California, San Francisco
Henry VanBrocklin, PhD Professor and Director of Radiopharmaceutical Research, Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging University of California, San Francisco


Submission Process

  1. Download the Application Template.
  2. Email your completed application to

Support from MJFF

The Michael J. Fox Foundation has long supported the pursuit of an alpha-synuclein PET tracer — in addition to funding alpha-synuclein therapies and projects investigating peripheral measures. In 2011, with little activity in the field, MJFF established a public-private Alpha-synuclein Imaging Consortium to begin work toward such a tool. If the MJFF Consortium is the first to build compelling evidence of a viable, selective tracer, members of the team, excluding MJFF staff, will be awarded the prize. In 2019, MJFF launched the Ken Griffin Alpha-Synuclein Image Competition to spur a scientific race in pursuit of an  alpha-synuclein imaging tracer. Three winning teams were announced in July 2020. 

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