Race Against Dementia, founded by Sir Jackie Stewart OBE, gives further £2m to accelerate the race against dementia


By Ed Pinches | Monday 20 September 2021

Race Against Dementia (RAD), a charity founded by Sir Jackie Stewart OBE, has awarded a further £2m of new funding to four outstanding early-career dementia researchers.

The new Fellows will join an existing global team harnessing the ambition and innovation of a new generation of scientists, providing them with funding, support and inspiration to accelerate dementia research.

Three-time Formula 1 World Champion, Sir Jackie, founded Race Against Dementia after his wife of 59 years, Helen, was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia. The charity works to raise money to fund breakthroughs in dementia research by applying the principles and expertise that have spurred incredible innovation in the fast-paced world of Formula 1 and other high-tech organisations.

Once again, RAD has partnered with the UK’s leading dementia research charity, Alzheimer’s Research UK, to identify early-career scientists with the most transformational research ideas.

The four new Race Against Dementia Fellows are Dr Emily Hill from the University of Warwick, Dr Aitana Sogorb Esteve, of the Dementia Research Centre and UK Dementia Research Institute at University College London, Dr Maura Malpetti, Cambridge University, and Dr Wiola Zelek, of the UK Dementia Research Institute at Cardiff University.

  • Dr Emily Hill has been appointed as the Race Against Dementia – Barbara Naylor Charitable Trust Fellow, in recognition of the support given by one of RAD’s funders. Dr Hill will unpick the molecular effects of tau tangles – knots of protein that build up in Alzheimer’s disease and affect nerve cells in a variety of different ways. Dr Hill aims to identify which regions of the tau molecule cause which effects, understanding that could help researchers working to produce targeted anti-tau drugs.
  • Dr Aitana Sogorb Esteve will explore how nerve cell connections in the brain change in frontotemporal dementia (FTD). These changes are the direct cause of FTD symptoms like communication problems and personality shifts. Dr Sogorb Esteve will reveal new insights into these processes and develop blood test techniques to measure damage to nerve cell connections in FTD.
  • Dr Malpetti’s project is focused on clarifying the role of inflammation in FTD. Harmful over-activity of the brain’s own immune system plays an important role in diseases that cause dementia. Dr Malpetti will use blood tests and brain scans to measure inflammation and explore the potential of brain inflammation as a marker that could help improve the diagnosis of FTD.
  • Dr Wiola Zelek will develop and test potential drugs that could prevent the potentially harmful aspect of brain inflammation. As inflammation is usually a protective process in the brain Dr Zelek will zero in on chemicals that only target only a specific element of this defence mechanism while leaving beneficial processes intact.

The Fellows are provided with unique opportunities for collaboration with top dementia scientists as well as high-level mentoring and development from experts outside the field such as the Red Bull and McLaren F1 teams.

Sir Jackie Stewart OBE, Founder of Race Against Dementia, said:

“ I am delighted to announce the appointment of RAD’s four new young Fellows – they are each very talented scientists and will be a great addition to the RAD team.  By working together and with the development support that RAD can provide I hope they will be able to make real progress in the fight against dementia. Our thanks go to everyone who continues to support financially Race Against Dementia in helping us to accelerate dementia research.”

Dr Susan Kohlhaas, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“We are delighted to work with Race Against Dementia to support these outstanding early career scientists. As well as providing the funding to explore cutting-edge research ideas, the RAD Fellowships offer world-class personal and professional mentoring and opportunities to learn from sectors and industries outside of medical research.

“Without new treatments or preventions, one in three children born this year will develop dementia in their lifetimes. It is our greatest long-term medical challenge, and we urgently need to bring more minds to bear in order to tackle it. We’re incredibly grateful to Sir Jackie for his support of these young dementia researchers and the innovative research that will make breakthroughs possible.”


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Ed Pinches