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Cambridge researchers win prestigious prizes at Alzheimer’s Research UK Conference 2022





Cambridge researchers once again played a leading role at the Alzheimer’s Research UK research conference, with prizes for two scientists and presentations from two PhD students.

Dr András Lakatos, of the University of Cambridge, at the Alzheimer's Research UK Conference 2022 in Brighton. Picture: ARUK (55446127)
Dr András Lakatos, of the University of Cambridge, at the Alzheimer's Research UK Conference 2022 in Brighton. Picture: ARUK (55446127)

Dr András Lakatos, a neurobiologist and consultant neurologist at the Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Cambridge, won the £25,000 David Hague award for Early Career Investigator of the Year.

And Dr Negin Holland, a clinical research fellow and specialist registrar in neurology from the Cambridge Centre for Parkinson-Plus, won the £2,000 Jean Corsan prize for best paper by an early career researcher.

Audrey Low at the Alzheimer's Research UK Conference 2022 in Brighton. Picture: ARUK (55446114)
Audrey Low at the Alzheimer's Research UK Conference 2022 in Brighton. Picture: ARUK (55446114)

They presented their research at the Brighton Centre, along with Cambridge PhD students Audrey Low and Karnika Gupta, in front of an audience of nearly 600 delegates - the first time since 2019 that the conference has been held in person.

Amid the pandemic, grant-dependent early career researchers have faced funding gaps, leaving many facing tough decisions over whether dementia research is a viable career choice.

Karnika Gupta at the Alzheimer's Research UK Conference 2022 in Brighton. Picture: ARUK (55446161)
Karnika Gupta at the Alzheimer's Research UK Conference 2022 in Brighton. Picture: ARUK (55446161)

Dr Susan Kohlhaas, director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “There are nearly one million people in the UK living with dementia, including over 11,000 people in Cambridgeshire alone. Early career researchers have been acutely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and as part of our work to bring about life-changing breakthroughs for people with dementia, we are prioritising support of these scientists to ensure we have the future research leaders of tomorrow.”

Dr András Lakatos, of the University of Cambridge, collects his prize at the Alzheimer's Research UK Conference 2022 in Brighton. Picture: ARUK (55446151)
Dr András Lakatos, of the University of Cambridge, collects his prize at the Alzheimer's Research UK Conference 2022 in Brighton. Picture: ARUK (55446151)

Dr Lakatos’s award recognised him as the most outstanding early career researcher in the field of biomedical dementia research. In addition to the £25,000 research expenses prize, he won a £1,500 personal prize.

He leads a research laboratory.that has contributed towards understanding the role of support cells in the network of nerve cells in the brain using ‘mini-brains in a dish’, or organoids. His current work aims to address knowledge gaps between genetic risk and pathways contributing to the los of nerve cells in diseases including frontotemporal dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

“I feel very privileged to receive this prestigious award, especially in light of the list of eminent colleagues who have received it before me,” he said.

“I take it as a recognition for my lab’s efforts over the years, and I have no doubt that this will fuel our research into neurodegenerative diseases.

“We currently don’t have very effective options for treating diseases like frontotemporal dementia or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). This award is particularly gratifying as this research may be able to identify further potential drug targets and give people hope.”

Dr Negin Holland, from the Cambridge Centre for Parkinson-Plus, at the Alzheimer's Research UK Conference 2022 in Brighton. Picture: ARUK (55446163)
Dr Negin Holland, from the Cambridge Centre for Parkinson-Plus, at the Alzheimer's Research UK Conference 2022 in Brighton. Picture: ARUK (55446163)

Dr Holland won her prize for the best published paper by a PhD student in the field. It looked at people with a build-up of tau, a protein involved in a number of diseases that cause the loss of nerve cells.

The Cambridge research team recruited participants with progressive supranuclear palsy and corticobasal degeneration from the Cambridge Centre for Parkinson-Plus and Join Dementia Research, which provides opportunities to take part in dementia research studies.

The Alzheimer's Research UK Conference 2022 in Brighton. Picture: ARUK (55446155)
The Alzheimer's Research UK Conference 2022 in Brighton. Picture: ARUK (55446155)

Dr Holland used brain scans to show areas of the brain with higher numbers of connections between nerve cells also have more build-up of tau, which suggests the connections can help spread the disease.

In patients with more severe disease, the relationship is lost. Nerve cell connections play a critical role in memory and thinking, meaning the findings could inform the design of future clinical trials.

The Alzheimer's Research UK Conference 2022 in Brighton. Picture: ARUK (55446153)
The Alzheimer's Research UK Conference 2022 in Brighton. Picture: ARUK (55446153)

Dr Holland said: “I was very excited and humbled by the news of being awarded the Jean Corsan Prize. As a clinician, I am faced with patients affected by dementia on a daily basis. I am fortunate to be based in a centre of excellence for dementia research and have the opportunity to advance our understanding of this devastating condition by a small step.

“I owe the success of the project to the expertise of and collaborations with many individuals and but importantly to our patient volunteers.”

Read more

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Structure of ALS molecule solved by MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, raising hopes of new treatments and diagnostic tools

New method of classifying tauopathies from MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology offers insight into neurodegenerative diseases

Rising star Dr Ben Falcon at MRC LMB explores role of tau in dementia

The Cambridge scientists who dominated the 2019 Alzheimer's Research UK awards



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