An interview with Luis Oliveira Researcher for the Michael J. Fox Foundation on September 2, 2023 by George Ackerman, Ph.D, J.D.
Please tell me a little about your background.
I’m a biochemist and neuroscientist who has been working in Parkinson’s disease research and investment for over 15 years across multiple countries in Europe and in the US, always interested in contributing to the development of better treatments.
Can you tell me more about your research?
At the Fox Foundation I lead various research projects involved in both biomarker and therapeutic development for important genetic risk factors for PD such as alpha-synuclein, GBA and LRRK2. Recently, in a large collaborative effort we were able to validate the first biomarker of PD, and this has enabled numerous opportunities to further advance the field through our better understanding of the disease, better clinical trial design, and therapeutics. Further developing and capitalizing on this research breakthrough is a major priority for us currently.
What is your passion and how did you get involved in Parkinson’s awareness and hope for a cure?
I have always been very curious about how cells function and what causes them to malfunction in diseases like Parkinson’s. I’ve been drawn into Parkinson’s awareness through my research, as I believe that raising awareness is intrinsically linked to advancing scientific knowledge. By sharing our research findings and perspectives, we not only educate the public but also inspire hope for a cure and encourage support for crucial research efforts that can make a difference in the lives of those affected by this condition.
What type of goals do you have for your research in the field of Parkinson’s research?
We all aim for a cure. That is our ultimate goal. More practically speaking, I think a major goal as a researcher and for the field in general is understanding enough of how the disease progresses overtime, and what the clinically and biologically relevant endpoints at each stage of the disease are, to allow for the designing of robust and efficient clinical trials that can test the therapeutic hypothesis. I believe that if we succeed in doing this, we’ll be close to treatments that might stop or delay the progression of PD and will be well positioned to support the rich therapeutic pipeline we have currently.
What effect can your research have on an individual with Parkinson’s?
I manage various projects with academic and industry labs around the world to develop biomarkers and novel therapeutics in the pre-clinical space for PD. Overall, this research can have a profound impact on individuals with Parkinson’s disease by potentially offering new treatments, therapies, and insights into managing their condition. Additionally, it provides hope for improved quality of life, increased understanding of the disease’s mechanisms, and the potential for better personalized care.
What would you like to see as a future goal for your research?
I’m going to repeat myself here a bit, but really think that building the tools to allow for smarter and more robust clinical trials that can test the therapeutic hypothesis will be game changing to bring novel treatments to patients.
What events do you participate in?
I participate in multiple and diverse events. Typically, research conferences, but also patient-facing education events and community engaging and fundraising events.
How does your research also assist the caregivers?
Elucidating the biological and molecular mechanisms of disease and translate that information into novel biomarkers and treatments is also important for caregivers, as it provides a framework to have a deeper understanding of the condition and its progression, allowing for more effective caregiving strategies.
How can someone get in touch? What is your website?
People can connect with me or with the multitude of resources that the Fox Foundation makes available for patients and caregivers at www.michaeljfox.org. In addition, people can always contact me directly through my LinkedIn profile https://www.linkedin.com/in/luismaoliveira/
In your opinion what is the key to finding a cure?
Finding cures for diseases like Parkinson’s is complex and requires a multi-faceted approach that includes a strong foundation of scientific research, a collaborative ecosystem among researchers and institutions, adequate funding to support the drug development pipeline, streamlined regulatory processes to review the approval of novel therapies, and lastly but uniquely important a strong patient community and involvement to play a vital role in advocacy efforts and participation in clinical studies.
If you had one final statement or quote you could leave for the Parkinson’s community, what would it be?
Together, we are the driving force of progress against Parkinson’s. With unwavering determination and collaboration, we can turn hope into a cure.