2022 in Review: new faces, new discoveries, new hope

Connectome 2022 5H

As the year draws to a close, we’ve taken a look back at some of the most significant moments for the UK DRI in 2022. From scientific discoveries to new partnerships, it has been another exciting year for the Institute.

5 years of innovation

This year saw the 5th anniversary of the UK DRI! Hear more about our successes in that time in the video below:

New scientific discoveries

The Institute remained at the forefront of discovery science in dementia, with many significant papers published. These included a major international study that uncovered 42 new genes associated with Alzheimer’s, a study that revealed ‘cell-penetrating’ proteins implicated in Parkinson’s and dementia with Lewy bodies, a new biomarker test to track the success of therapy for ALS and frontotemporal dementia, and many, many, more.

New joiners bring fresh perspective

We had some brilliant new additions join us at the UK DRI, including Prof Jernej Ule, as the new Centre Director of the UK DRI at King’s. Changes happened internally too: Prof Caleb Webber was appointed as Director of Informatics to develop and implement a new data science strategy for the Institute, and Dr Jing Qiu (UK DRI at Edinburgh) became a UK DRI Emerging Leader.

Jernej Ule 2

Biomarker Factory launches

The UK DRI Biomarker Factory, led by Dr Amanda Heslegrave and Prof Henrik Zetterberg, launched externally this year, meaning researchers across the UK and beyond can now access its services - developing the very latest tools to track and diagnose neurodegenerative disease.

The Care Research & Technology Centre opened its doors

In another milestone for the Institute, we marked the official launch of the UK DRI Care Research & Technology Centre in May. Then Minister of State for Care and Mental Health, Gillian Keegan, joined trial participants, researchers, and partners at the opening event to unveil a plaque commemorating the occasion.

Dri Launch Imperial Gillian Keegan 18 05 22 Dan Weill Photography 49

A thriving research community

It’s been a busy year for our early career researchers who spearheaded several events including a truly international CURE-ND symposium in London. We also launched a brand new research theme, Macroglia, bringing together experts from across our centres to discuss important support cells in the brain - astrocytes and oligodendrocytes.

Policy and influencing

The UK DRI joined forces with the other CURE-ND partners, to write an open letter calling upon the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, to confirm the UK’s full association to Horizon Europe without delay. In other news, three UK DRI researchers took part in the 2022 Royal Society Pairing Scheme, an opportunity to gain first-hand experience of the inner workings of parliament and insight into how policy is shaped. We welcomed Jo Stevens MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, to visit the UK DRI at Cardiff, and Nus Ghani MP, Minister for Industry and Investment Security, visited the UK DRI Imperial and Care Research and Technology centres.

Pairing Scheme 2

Partnerships and donations

In 2022, we continued to form important partnerships. The medical research charity LifeArc committed an incredible £30 million over 5 years to boost our translational work, and we announced a new industry partnership with Astex Pharmaceuticals, which funded two initial projects. We also received a generous £7.5 million donation from the Michael Uren Foundation, to fund four research projects led by scientists at the UK DRI at Imperial.

Engaging the public in dementia research

We engaged the public in dementia research through various events, including ‘Dementia Demystified’ at the Francis Crick Institute, a World Parkinson’s Day public showcase at the UK DRI at Cardiff, and a webinar on diversity in dementia research. ‘Making it Brain’, a virtual mini conference for secondary school students interested in neuroscience careers and research, returned for a second, hugely successful year in 2022, nearly doubling in size compared to the previous year’s event.

0031 Crick Dementia Demystified 31

Medals, awards and a knighthood

Congratulations to all those who received awards and accolades this year, including Prof Sir John Hardy who received a knighthood in the 2022 New Year Honours list, Prof Sarah Tabrizi who was awarded the MRC Millennium Medal 2022, and Sophie Sanford who was awarded the British Neuroscience Association (BNA) Award for Public Engagement of Neuroscience 2022.

Coming together for Connectome

Returning in person for the first time since 2019, our annual conference Connectome took place in Brighton in November. More than 600 UK DRI researchers from our seven centres across the UK gathered together for an event packed full of exciting science, with opportunities to make connections and spark new ideas.

Connectome 2022 9G

New hope for those living with dementia

And finally… hugely positive news in the wider dementia research field as we saw much needed treatment breakthroughs. This year saw the FDA approve Relyvrio to treat patients with amyloid lateral sclerosis (ALS), and in September, pharmaceutical company Eisai announced positive results from its phase 3 trial of new Alzheimer’s drug lecanemab. The drug slowed cognitive decline by 27% - read our researchers responses to the news here.

Now celebrating our 5th anniversary, the UK DRI continues to go from strength to strength. Thank you to all those who have made it possible - we can’t wait to see what the new year has in store!

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Article published: 15 December 2022