The mission of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) is to seek fundamental knowledge about the brain and nervous system and to use that knowledge to reduce the burden of neurological disease. As a part of this mission, the NINDS supports basic, translational and clinical research on Parkinson's disease (PD), a complex neurodegenerative disorder that progressively impairs the control of purposeful movement.
The NINDS Parkinson's Disease Research Centers of Excellence program was developed in honor of former Congressman Morris K. Udall of Arizona. Mr. Udall was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1961 in a special election to replace his brother Stewart, who left the position to become President John F. Kennedy's Secretary of Interior. Representative Udall was diagnosed with PD in 1979; however, he remained active in Congress until his retirement in May 1991. He died in 1998 after a long battle with the disease. On November 13, 1997, the President of the United States signed the Morris K. Udall Parkinson's Disease Research Act of 1997 into law (P.L. 105-78).
In 1997, the NINDS released a Request for Applications to establish the first Morris K. Udall Centers of Excellence in Parkinson's Disease Research. Udall Centers utilize a multidisciplinary research approach to elucidate the fundamental causes of PD as well as to improve the diagnosis and treatment of patients with Parkinson's and related neurodegenerative disorders.
The Morris K. Udall Centers of Excellence Program continues to forge a strong and innovative path in PD research. These Centers carry out important research on PD, including the identification and characterization of candidate and disease-associated genes, examination of neurobiological mechanisms, establishment of improved PD models, development and testing of potential therapeutics, and novel avenues of clinical research. The Centers continue to create and foster an environment that enhances the research effectiveness of investigators in a multidisciplinary setting, utilizing specialized methods relevant to the study of this disorder.
NINDS is committed to continuing and enhancing the tradition of scientific excellence fostered by the Udall Centers and will continue efforts to strengthen the Udall program in coming years.