Cambridge researchers take centre stage at leading dementia conference


By Quang Tran | Tuesday 08 March 2022

  • Dr András Lakatos gets £25,000 David Hague award for Early Career Investigator of the Year
  • Dr Negin Holland wins £2,000 Jean Corsan prize for best paper by an early career researcher
  • PhD students Audrey Low and Karnika Gupta speak at the Conference full of world experts in their field.

The UK’s leading dementia research charity, Alzheimer’s Research UK has awarded Cambridge-based researchers, Dr András Lakatos, and Dr Negin Holland, prestigious prizes at their annual research conference.

The pair take home the David Hague Early Career Investigator of the Year Award and Jean Corsan Prize respectively. Both scientists presented their research in the Brighton Centre with an audience of nearly 600 delegates, with the overwhelming majority in-person at the venue for the first time since 2019.

Cambridge researchers last attended the Alzheimer’s Research UK conference in Harrogate before the COVID-19 pandemic where they also took home a number of awards. And previous winners of both awards have since gone on to make vital discoveries in dementia science.

Since 2019, early career researchers have been heavily impacted by the pandemic. As their positions are grant-dependent, they faced funding gaps and tough decisions on whether dementia research is still a viable career choice for them.

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.
“After so long apart, we’re excited to be running our Research Conference again this year in Brighton as a hybrid event. Getting people back together is key and something we believe will inspire others. It’s fantastic to see talented young researchers in Cambridge taking on our greatest medical challenge, producing such high-quality research and sharing their findings on such an important platform. It’s great to see so many scientists from the region recognised at the Alzheimer’s Research UK Conference.
“Investing in early career researchers now is vital to make sure we have the best dementia research leaders of tomorrow and that we can continue to make research breakthroughs possible.”

David Hague Early Career Investigator of the Year Award – Dr Andras Lakatos

Dr András Lakatos has been awarded, The David Hague Early Career Investigator of the Year Award for being the most outstanding early career researcher in the field of biomedical dementia research. The prize is worth £25,000 in research expenses, with an additional £1,500 personal prize.
Dr András Lakatos is a neurobiologist and consultant neurologist at the Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Cambridge, where he leads a research laboratory. After pausing his research activities to complete his full-time clinical specialist training in general medicine and neurology, Dr Lakatos obtained a junior university fellowship, and later, in 2017 received the Medical Research Council Clinician Scientist Fellowship Award.

Dr Lakatos’ research has contributed towards understanding the role of support cells in the vast network of nerve cells in the brain in health and disease. To do this in the lab he and his research group developed state-of-the-art techniques to study ‘mini-brains in a dish’.

He is currently leading research that aims to address knowledge gaps between genetic risk and pathways contributing to nerve cells loss in diseases including frontotemporal dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Dr András Lakatos, from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Clinical Neurosciences, said:
“I feel very privileged to receive this prestigious award, especially in light of the list of eminent colleagues who have received it before me. 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.”

Jean Corsan Prize – Dr Negin Holland

Dr Negin Holland wins the Jean Corsan Prize, for the best published paper by a PhD student in the field.

In the study, Dr Holland who is also a clinician, looked at people with a build-up of tau, a culprit protein in several different diseases that cause the loss of nerve cells.

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

Using brain scans, Dr Holland found that areas of the brain with higher numbers of connections between nerve cells, also have more build-up of tau, suggesting that the connections can help spread the disease. In patients with more severe disease this relationship is lost. Given the importance of nerve cell connections for memory and thinking, this work may inform the design of future clinical trials.

Dr Negin Holland, speaking about her findings as the winner of the 2022 Jean Corsan Prize, 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.”

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Quang Tran