This past weekend the Parkinson’s disease community and the world at large lost a truly inspirational leader with the passing of Muhammad Ali. We want to express our sympathy to his family for their loss and join countless others in celebrating his life and extraordinary achievements on behalf of many causes.
Of course, Parkinson’s disease is a cause close to 23andMe. Diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1984 at age 42, twenty years sooner than the average Parkinson’s patient, Ali managed to shock the world much like he did in the ring, living more than three decades with the disease. His commitment to battle the disease everyday and to not let it define or defeat him are truly inspirational for all of those living with Parkinson’s, as well as their caregivers.
Parkinson’s affects between 7 and 10 million people worldwide. Together with 23andMe, Ali and his daughter Laila produced a video encouraging participation in Parkinson’s disease research. Due in large part to the awareness raised by the video, and other efforts made by the Ali family, there are now more than 11,000 patients enrolled in the 23andMe Parkinson’s research study.
This research has led to the discovery of several new genetic associations for Parkinson’s Disease. We are forever grateful for the global awareness he raised. Because of Ali’s leadership and the courage of others with PD, we are beginning to better understand the role genetics plays along with behavior and environmental factors.
We will, like the rest of the PD community, miss his fighting spirit. But in his memory, the fight lives on.