As many of you know I have been working on neuronopathic Gaucher Disease for over a decade in my lab at the Weizmann Institute in Israel. We have made great progress creating the “building blocks” of understanding.
This progress has happened because of the support received by the CGRF – or more personally – because of your generous support. However, one of the frustrating aspects with research in this area is the small number of people who have been working on this disease. The meeting that was held in Atlanta brought together in an informal setting 25 brain experts from around the world, some of whom had previously worked on Gaucher Disease and a number who were totally new to the field but work on various aspects of brain diseases. Getting this group together was of enormous importance, as it is sure to foster new collaborations and new ways of thinking about the disease.
In addition, in attendance were scientific researchers from the Parkinson’s field. The connection between Gaucher and Parkinson’s disease is growing stronger, and this is sure to be a segment of Parkinson’s research that will be very important, and will grow in future years.
The meeting was very informal, inasmuch as the scientific sessions were centered around discussion points which had been selected ahead of time. Participants were encouraged to suggest the most outlandish ideas, to participate freely and to engage in lively debate. These goals were achieved and I think it would be fair to say that this was one of the most intense two day discussions that I have ever participated in! It was particularly encouraging to get the input of scientists who did not come from a Gaucher background and many of them had suggestions which, I believe, will be of enormous benefit to the field.
I can do no better than quote one of the participants who sent me an e-mail after the meeting and said something along the lines of “I was skeptical that a meeting like this could work, but in the end I think it was fantastic”. I hope that there will be another similar gathering in the near future to brainstorm about progress made during this period and to inspire new ideas and new research directions.
Tony Futerman, PhD
Weizmann Institute of Science