Since it began in 2014, the Edmond J. Safra Fellowship in Movement Disorders has trained 32 new clinician-scientist leaders around the world and is on track to graduate 72 by the year 2028.
As one of the earliest and most supportive champions of The Michael J. Fox Foundation’s mission, the Edmond J. Safra Foundation through this program has made significant contributions in enhancing access to high-quality patient care and leading scientific advancements toward better understanding and treatment of movement disorders — an urgent need as the number of people with Parkinson’s increases around the world.
Aiming to support alumni and sustain their contributions to Parkinson’s research beyond their Fellowship, the Edmond J. Safra Movement Disorders Research Career Development Awards was launched in 2022 and has recently selected two new Fellowship alumni as awardees.
NEW YORK (October 19, 2023) — As part of its commitment to advance critical research and reach more people with Parkinson’s disease (PD) across the globe with better care, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF) — with support from longstanding partner the Edmond J. Safra Foundation — has expanded a global network of clinician-researchers leading a new era in Parkinson’s research and care. Since its launch in 2014, the Edmond J. Safra Fellowship in Movement Disorders annually funds eight medical centers around the world to train the next generation of Parkinson’s specialists as physician-scientist leaders. These clinicians are movement disorder specialists — neurologists with additional training who can recognize distinct nuances of PD and tailor treatments to each patient.
Seeing a movement disorder specialist is key for navigating care and treatment as best as possible for people living with Parkinson’s. A recent study, published in npj Parkinson’s Disease and supported by MJFF, shows the annual incidence of PD among older adults in the U.S. is nearly 50 percent higher than the rate previously estimated at nearly 90,000 cases per year. And, as noted in a 2018 Journal of the American Medical Association paper, the number of people with Parkinson's will double by 2040, to an estimated nearly 13 million. Given the relationship between Parkinson’s and aging, a topic of increasing urgency around the world, the demand for specialists is increasing. A shortage of movement disorder specialists can bring challenges in seeking care including long appointment wait times and unreasonable travel distances. Through the commitment of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation, the Fellowship is making a tangible impact around the world by growing the base of clinician-researchers — 32 new movement disorder specialists have graduated since the program launched in 2014.
As Parkinson’s specialists see an average of 445 people with PD and other movement disorders every year, according to a recent survey of our Fellowship alumni, this growing network of clinician-researchers is able to make a significant impact. With the Edmond J. Safra Fellowship set to graduate 72 total new movement disorder specialists by 2028, the program would expand access to care for nearly 32,040 patients, including those in underserved populations around the globe.
The Edmond J. Safra Fellowship and the advancements of most promising Parkinson’s research to date have been made possible through the leadership and transformative generosity of the late Mrs. Lily Safra, former chairwoman of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation and MJFF Board member. Commenting on the impact of the Fellowship in 2021, the late Mrs. Safra said: “This growing global network of expertly trained movement disorder specialists will help ensure that people and families living with Parkinson’s receive comprehensive and compassionate care and that critical research moves forward to meet their most pressing needs. I’m deeply proud of The Edmond J. Safra Fellowship’s significant impact on Parkinson’s care and research.”
“As one of the Foundation’s earliest and most supportive champions, the Edmond J. Safra Foundation and the compassionate spirit of the late Mrs. Lily Safra have paved a path forward for transformative research and the highest quality care for people and families living with Parkinson’s, including in underserved populations around the world,” said MJFF CEO and Co-Founder Deborah W. Brooks. “The Edmond J. Safra Fellows in training, alumni and directors are advancing what’s possible in future drug development, key discoveries in research and better care that will benefit all people living with the disease today and those who may be diagnosed tomorrow.”
Graduating Class of 2023 Ushers in the Next Chapter of Research and Care
Now in its ninth year, the Edmond J. Safra Fellowship has achieved the status of a world-renowned funding opportunity, a distinguished training pathway and a peer-to-peer network. The most recent graduates, part of the sixth graduating class, now move forward in their careers toward caring for people and families with Parkinson’s and fueling research momentum globally:
Sergio A. Castillo-Torres, MD
Fellowship Site: Servicio de Movimientos Anormales, Fleni; Buenos Aires, Argentina
Sergio will join the team at the Dr. Jose Eleuterio Gonzalez University Hospital in Monterrey, Mexico, as an assistant professor in neurology where he will care for an underserved patient population with Parkinson’s and other movement disorders.
Stephen Joza, MD, PhD
Fellowship Site: Montreal Neurological Institute at McGill University; Montreal, Canada
Stephen will complete a fellowship in sleep with the goal of merging care and research on sleep and movement disorders at the University of Toronto. He will focus on sleep neurology and early risk factors of brain disease.
Francesca Magrinelli, MD, PhD
Fellowship Site: UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology; London, England
Francesca will continue her clinical research fellowship at the Department of Clinical and Movement Neurosciences University of College London Queen Square Institute of Neurology with an aim to further her research focused on validating a new gene that is believed to be responsible for inherited juvenile/early-onset parkinsonism.
Poornima Menon, MB BCh BAO, MRCPI
Fellowship Site: Hôpital Pitié-Salpétrière; Paris, France
Poornima will join the University of College London Queen Square in London, England team as a specialist registrar with the goal of caring for her patients, and in tandem, she will further research-led efforts of a global study discovering new genes associated with the disease.
Andrea Yoo, MD
Fellowship Site: Mount Sinai Beth Israel; New York, New York
Andrea will become an assistant professor of clinical neurology at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City, where she will specialize in seeing patients with movement disorders and continue her research in sleep issues associated with Parkinson’s.
Top-Tier Academic Centers Selected to Train the Class of 2026
Since its inception, the Edmond J. Safra Fellowship has extended funding to 32 world-renowned academic institutions in nine countries and 12 U.S. states. During the most recent round of funding, an external review committee of movement disorder specialists, assembled by MJFF, selected eight top-tier medical centers — four of which are new to the fellowship network — from a highly competitive group of applicants to train the Class of 2026. The awardees are:
Brigham and Women’s Hospital — Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts
Fundació de Recerca Clínic Barcelona Institut d’Investigacions Biomèdiques August Pi i Sunyer (FRCB-IDIBAPS) in Barcelona, Spain
Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois
The University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
University of California San Diego in San Diego, California
University College London in London, England
University Medical Center Groningen in Groningen, the Netherlands
University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida
MJFF is now accepting applications from academic centers to train the Class of 2027. A review committee will evaluate applicants on their history of training movement disorder clinician-researchers; the breadth and depth of clinical care and research education; and training opportunities that equip fellows with the skills and knowledge to advance equitable access and diversity across clinical care services, research, education and community outreach. The deadline to apply is Thursday, December 7, 2023. Learn more and apply here.
The Edmond J. Safra Movement Disorders Research Career Development Awards
To support the sustained contributions of Fellowship alumni to Parkinson’s research, in 2022, MJFF and the Edmond J. Safra Foundation launched “The Edmond J. Safra Movement Disorders Research Career Development Awards.” This competitive research funding opportunity supports recent graduates and their research trajectory as independent scientific investigators.
Since the inaugural award launch in 2022, the two selected inaugural grantees have amplified field-wide contributions of the Fellowship network.
Conor Fearon, BE, MB, PhD
Edmond J. Safra Fellowship Class of 2022
Consultant Neurologist, Dublin Neurological Institute; Dublin, Ireland
Combining his expertise in electrical engineering and movement disorders, Conor seeks to develop quantitative, non-invasive biomarkers to diagnose and track Parkinson’s and related parkinsonisms through analysis of eye movements and pupillary changes. He has recruited a substantial number of participants and evaluated eye movements, using a specialized eye-tracking device, while participants watch video clips.
Anne Weissbach, MD
Edmond J. Safra Fellowship Class of 2020
Assistant Professor and Group Leader; The Institute of Neurogenetics in Lübeck; Lübeck, Germany
Anne’s Early Career Development Award funding supports a mobile examination unit to evaluate rare PD mutation carriers in remote areas. This builds upon Weissbach’s ongoing work comparing sensorimotor integration and clinical symptoms to define PD subgroups and identify protective markers in mutation carriers. Recruitment has been initiated and Anne has started transcranial magnetic stimulation testing in control volunteers.
A review committee of MJFF staff and external scientific advisors have selected two recent Edmond J. Safra Fellowship alumni as the 2023 awardees. Both grantees will now begin two-year research projects while continuing to provide expert care to people and families living with Parkinson’s and other movement disorders.
Francesca Magrinelli, MD, PhD
Edmond J. Safra Fellowship Class of 2023
Clinical Research Fellow, University of College London; London, England
Combining her expertise and interest in early-onset Parkinson’s and parkinsonism and pathology, Francesca aims to replicate, functionally validate and mechanically characterize a novel candidate gene to further dissect Parkinson’s pathogenesis and defective pathways in order to identify druggable targets.
Kimberly Kwei, MD, PhD
Edmond J. Safra Fellowship Class of 2020
Assistant Professor of Neurology, Columbia University; New York, New York
To gain a better understanding of the neuronal circuits underlying freezing of gait, commonly encountered in advanced Parkinson’s and some atypical parkinsonisms, Kwei will study the clinical convergence of symptoms to learn more about commonalities and divergences in pathophysiology across disease entities.
To learn more about the Edmond J. Safra Fellowship in Movement Disorders and latest updates on the program, visit www.michaeljfox.org/edmond-j-safra-fellowship-movement-disorders.
About The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF)
As the world's largest nonprofit funder of Parkinson's research, The Michael J. Fox Foundation is dedicated to accelerating a cure for Parkinson's disease and improved therapies for those living with the condition today. The Foundation pursues its goals through an aggressively funded, highly targeted research program coupled with active global engagement of scientists, Parkinson's patients, business leaders, clinical trial participants, donors and volunteers. In addition to funding $1.75 billion in research to date, the Foundation has fundamentally altered the trajectory of progress toward a cure. Operating at the hub of worldwide Parkinson's research, the Foundation forges groundbreaking collaborations with industry leaders, academic scientists and government research funders; creates a robust open- access data set and biosample library to speed scientific breakthroughs and treatment with its landmark clinical study, PPMI; increases the flow of participants into Parkinson's disease clinical trials with its online tool, Fox Trial Finder; promotes Parkinson's awareness through high-profile advocacy, events and outreach; and coordinates the grassroots involvement of thousands of Team Fox members around the world. For more information, visit us at www.michaeljfox.org, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn.
About the Edmond J. Safra Foundation
Edmond J. Safra, one of the 20th century’s most accomplished bankers and a devoted philanthropist, established a major charitable foundation to ensure that individuals and organizations would continue to receive his assistance and encouragement for many years to come. Led for more than twenty years by his beloved wife Lily, the Edmond J. Safra Foundation draws continuing inspiration from Mr. and Mrs. Safra’s values and priorities, supporting hundreds of organizations and programs in more than forty countries around the world. Its work encompasses four areas: education; science and medicine; religion; and humanitarian assistance, culture, and social welfare. The Foundation has provided significant funding for Parkinson’s disease research and patient care at dozens of hospitals and institutes in places as varied as Natal (Brazil), Toronto, New York, Grenoble, Paris, London and Jerusalem.
The Michael J. Fox Foundation