Celebrating the successes of our dementia researchers
By Claire Bromley | Wednesday 22 July 2020
Times are challenging for everyone at the moment and our dementia researchers are no exception, so now more than ever it’s important to celebrate our scientists’ successes.
Alzheimer’s Research UK is proud to work with many incredible scientists. We were excited to hear the news this month that two of our dementia researchers, Selina Wray and Tammaryn Lashley, have been awarded Professorships at University College London (UCL). This is a fantastic recognition of their achievements through the years.
Thanks to our amazing supporters, Alzheimer’s Research UK has been able to fund both of these inspiring female scientists throughout their careers. This is essential, as without supporting the research leaders of tomorrow, we will not be successful in making the vital breakthroughs needed for dementia.
Prof Tammaryn Lashley
Prof Tammaryn Lashley has become a leader in dementia research and Alzheimer’s Research UK has supported her since she made her first steps as an independent researcher in 2012.
Her research has enhanced our understanding of the mechanisms behind frontotemporal dementia and familial Alzheimer’s disease. These insights have already influenced over 3,500 new discoveries across the world and will help guide new treatment approaches for the diseases that cause dementia.
Outside of the lab, Prof Lashley has played a key role in the Alzheimer’s Research UK UCL Network Centre, which brings scientists together to share ideas, and she is now a mentor for early career researchers.
“I think it is important for senior people to teach the younger generation how to succeed. I don’t mean show them, because everybody’s career paths are different. But to teach them resilience, how to get things done, how to keep going when everything you do is a failure (experiments/ papers/ grant applications).”
Prof Lashley has also helped raise the profile of dementia research, attending the House of Commons and featuring in BBC productions. This work helps ensure people living with dementia and research into the condition remain a national priority.
Prof Selina Wray
Prof Selina Wray uses cutting-edge techniques with stem cells to unravel the causes of different types of dementia.
A key hallmark of Alzheimer’s and frontotemporal dementia is the build-up of tau protein in the brain. Prof Wray’s work has shed light on how tau damages nerve cells in the brain, an essential stepping-stone in the search for new diagnostic tools and life-changing treatments. Since 2009, she has contributed to 60 new discoveries.
Prof Wray is a fantastic ambassador for Alzheimer’s Research UK, speaking at public events, appearing in the media, fundraising for us through events like the London Marathon, and championing dementia research in parliament. Previously, she was a winner of Alzheimer’s Research UK’s 2018 David Hague Early Career Investigator of the Year and was voted Red Magazine’s Pioneer of the Year.
Alzheimer’s Research UK is passionate about championing our female scientists. Prof Wray and Prof Lashley are not only providing inspiration to others, but they are also forging a path for others to follow.
“A really important factor in inspiring women in science is having visible role models, so [we need to have] women doing high profile jobs in science, so people can look at those women and think, ‘if she can do it so can I.’”
What now for the next generation of dementia researchers?
At Alzheimer’s Research UK, we see first-hand the impact of supporting scientists like Prof Wray and Prof Lashley throughout their careers, and of investing in their talent and skills. All the scientists that we have awarded Senior Research Fellowships to have continued to make breakthroughs possible in dementia research and have become leaders in the field.
However, COVID-19 is sadly putting our ability to support the next generation of dementia researchers at risk, with our charitable income predicted to fall by 45% this year. This means that there will be fewer opportunities for the next generation of dementia researchers, and early career researchers ready to make their first steps to becoming independent scientists may not get the funding that they need to continue.
All of this puts critical progress at risk, which is why, together with other charities, we are calling on government to help mitigate COVID-19’s impact on vital medical research.
We’ll continue striving to safeguard momentum in dementia research, and we have been humbled by our supporters who have continued to back our mission to make breakthroughs possible during this difficult time. We need your support more than ever and are determined to find answers, with your help.
You can support the next generation of dementia researchers by: