Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis – neurodegenerative or related diseases that affect the central nervous system concern over one million people in France. Every year, some 250,000 new cases are registered in France. As there currently is no cure, support for research is crucial. A focus on three foundations standing by the side of researchers.
Alzheimer’s disease: hope for early detection
Every year in France, 225,000 people are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Behind this colossal figure lay as many stories of men and women and broken lives. Philippe Chatrier, a major figure in the sports world and ex-president of the French Tennis Federation, passed away in 2000. Since 2001, the foundation in his name, a Fondation de France donor-advised fund that was created by his son, Jean-Philippe Chatrier, supports research on this disease.
Every year, the foundation awards a 35,000-euro grant to a young post doctorate so they can continue their work in a top laboratory. It also offers an annual prize that supports young researchers under 35 years old. “Most of the laureates that we have supported are now major actors in research,” notes Catherine Sabbag-Nahoum, president of the Fondation Philippe Chatrier. “For example, Agathe Vrillon, who we supported in 2019, worked on the detection of the tau protein, heavily present in Alzheimer’s cases, through a simple blood test. Her work has advanced significantly. This detection technique is much less invasive than a spinal tap, which means that doctors can prescribe medicines that slow the disease’s progression sooner. As we wait for a curative treatment, the time gained is time for living,” she concludes.
Demyelinating diseases: deeper understanding for more effective action
Demyelinating diseases, which include multiple sclerosis, are not well understood. Ten years ago, the family foundation created by the four children of Marie-Ange Bouvet Labruyère in memory of their mother, changed focus to support research to combat multiple sclerosis. Sandrine, the only female sibling, suffers from this auto-immune disease, which attacks neurotransmitter functions. “For us, it was obvious that through our mother’s foundation we could help our sister in her fight while also supporting research,” explains Christian Bouvet. Every year, in association with the Paris Brain Institute (PBI), Fondation Marie-Ange Bouvet Labruyère awards a grant of 20,000 euros to young researchers. The research focuses on two concepts: detecting risk factors, which are still not understood, and treatments that can repair the myelin, or in other words, restore the sheath that ensures clear communication between neurons. “It’s a complex disease that makes you feel powerless,” says Sébastien Bouvet. “So our involvement in the foundation and regular contact with the PBI teams allows us to better understand how the disease works, and to keep up with possible advances. It’s also very encouraging to see the teams’ dedication. That specialists devote their entire career to it…that inspires admiration and revives hope.”
Parkinson’s disease: earlier diagnosis to reduce symptoms
Parkinson’s disease is the second most frequent neurodegenerative disorder after Alzheimer’s disease. It is also at the core of Fondation Schutzman-Zisman's commitment. Created in 2002, this foundation continues to carry out the wishes of its benefactor, Yolande Schutzman-Zisman, which was to support research on Parkinson’s in memory of her husband Émile, who died from it. Every year, the foundation supports Fondation de France’s Parkinson's Disease program with a donation of nearly 170,000 euros. “This amount represents around one third of the budget that we allocate to research on this disease,” says Fanny Ledonné, head of Medical Research at Fondation de France. “In 2021, this funding allowed us to support several promising projects, including the detection of biomarkers present in people suffering from Parkinson’s, a new imaging technique and a project on problems with impulse control caused by antiparkinson treatments.”