Newsmaker: Chasing the cure - David Jones Chairman, Next

Nathalie Thomas

Raising funds for research into Parkinson's Disease.

David Jones has been afflicted for 23 years with Parkinson's Disease and describes the degenerative condition as "a bugger". But it hasn't prevented him from reversing the fortunes of one of Britain's best known high-street names - and now, setting up his own charity.

"I've always had a belief that no problem is unsolvable" he says. "You just have to think it through logically."

Despite being diagnosed with Parkinson's at the age of 39, Jones's strong sense of logic and commercial acumen have turned him into one of the most successful personalities in the commercial world. Now that logic is turning his charitable venture into a success as well.

The Cure Parkinson's Trust is a year and a half into its five-year plan to raise £2.5m for research into a cure for the disease. But Jones estimates that the trust will already be halfway to its target in only a few weeks.

He hopes the royalties from his recently published biography, Next To Me, an emotive account of his struggle with Parkinson's, will combine with his other high-profile fundraising efforts - including a launch party attended by Ashes-winning England cricket captain Michael Vaughan - to achieve the trust's objectives.

He is clear that the trust, which he co-founded with Tom Isaacs, Michael Dicken and Sir Richard Nichols, has not been set up as a rival to any of the UK's existing Parkinson's charities.

"We believe most of the money that is collected by the Parkinson's Disease Society goes to help people who have Parkinson's," he says. "That is commendable, but a very small amount of money goes into research.

"We wanted to create a charity that is not competing with the Parkinson's Disease Society, but devoting its money purely to research."

The Cure Parkinson's Trust already supports a number of research projects, both in the UK and abroad. Jones's high profile has enabled it to forge strong links with the Michael J Fox Foundation in the US. Actor Fox also suffers from Parkinson's.

Jones explains: "Tom and I went over to meet Michael J Fox about three or four months ago. We built up a good relationship with him, and have agreed to compare notes on a regular basis."

Even if this takes the trust into controversial areas such as stem cell research, Jones is determined to succeed. "We must find an answer because it's a degenerative disease and it ruins your standard of life," he says. "It won't kill you but, by God, you know you have it every day."

Jones regularly brushes shoulders with the likes of former England rugby captain Martin Johnson, whose attendance at his Swing Low Sweet Charity Ball at the Battersea Arena last year helped to raise £500,000.

But that doesn't mean he has no time for those less fortunate. In Next To Me, Jones describes helping a young, blind Asian woman on Oxford Street who was getting tangled up with a paper rack outside a newsagent's.

"There were plenty of people going in and out of the shop, but no one bothered to help her," he writes.

The attitude of turning a blind eye to people with disabilities infuriates Jones, who has himself occasionally lapsed into dyskinesia, the uncontrollable shaking caused by Parkinson's, when in public. He has no truck with those who look the other way.

"I don't want people to ignore me," he says. "I want people to accept it's going to happen once in a while. I can't do anything about it and it makes me more embarrassed than them."

It's hard to imagine how anyone can ignore Jones, with his combination of steely determination and touching honesty. After the Cure Parkinson's Trust, you can't help but wonder what he'll turn his hand to next.

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