CURE-ND: European partners unite in scientific and political spheres

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The first half of the 2022 saw the European alliance for neurodegenerative research, CURE-ND, come together for a London meeting of early career researchers (ECRs), a networking and showcase event at Europe’s biggest neuroscience conference and a collective request for urgent clarity and action surrounding the UK’s association with Horizon Europe.

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ECR Scientific Meeting, London

In May, the UK DRI and joint ECR committee for CURE-ND organised a fantastic 2-day meeting on the banks of Camden’s canals - a hotspot for London youth and culture. This was the first event of its kind for the network and, for many of the 72 attendees, their first international conference.

The meeting provided a brilliant setting for the ECRs to share their research through posters or talks, as well as linking up with peers for future collaborative or career opportunities. Running the meeting exclusively for ECRs had many benefits as Angela Rollar (ECR Rep, DZNE) reported, “We could see that ECRs felt more comfortable to ask questions and take part in lively discussions in this “safe” environment. It’s a great chance to prepare for their further career.”

Two prizes were handed out for best presentation and poster, with Marijne Vandebergh (Mission Lucidity) and Gerard Crowley (UK DRI at UCL) picking up the awards respectively. “The quality of talks was very high,” said Benedikt Holbling (ECR Rep, UK DRI). “They covered a great range of diseases and model systems, which everyone benefited from hearing about.”

Other highlights of the meeting included a keynote from world-leading Alzheimer’s expert, Prof John Hardy (UK DRI at UCL), and non-scientific sessions on careers and mental health. “These topics aren’t always addressed at meetings, and we hoped honest discussion around them would be positive for attendees. Many ECRs seemed invigorated to hear that successful Group Leaders also struggle with the same issues,” commented Lucas Baltussen (ECR Rep, Mission Lucidity).

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Feedback from the event proved overwhelmingly positive, with over 95% of attendees polled indicating that they would attend a similar meeting in future. Filipa Rapos Opereira’s (ECR Rep, Paris Brain Institute) summarised the importance of these international meetings to rising stars in the dementia field. “This really is in the fabric of our field. We, neuroscientists, know that sooner or later we will have to move labs, cities, or countries which often means living in different cultures and learning new scientific approaches. The earlier researchers are exposed to these different environments, the easier it will be to navigate them in the future.”

Networking event, Federation for Neuroscience Societies (FENS) conference 2022, Paris

It was a pleasure to welcome attendees of this year’s FENS conference to an evening networking event, showcasing the CURE-ND initiative, and stimulating engaging discussion around neurodegenerative disease research in Europe.

In the host city of Paris, Alexis Brice, Director General of the Institut du Cerveau, opened the event before representatives from all four partners presented on topics such as the causes and mechanisms behind ALS, non-invasive neuromodulation for Alzheimer’s and quantitive modelling of sporadic axonal degeneration. UK DRI Director Prof Bart De Strooper, discussed his own research into the cellular phase of Alzheimer’s disease, on behalf of the Institute.

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Joint open letter to the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen

Last month, the four CURE-ND partners wrote 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.

Uncertainty around the UK’s involvement in the programme is having a negative impact on the field, and the Directors again stressed that cross-border collaboration is essential in our mission to find treatments and cure for devastating neurodegenerative conditions. Read the news article and open letter here.

Plans are underway for future CURE-ND partner events including an annual ECR symposium, a clinical workshop in Paris early next year and joint symposia at the British Neuroscience Association’s Festival of Neuroscience 2023. To stay up to date on CURE-ND activities, and all the latest research news and updates from UK DRI, sign up to receive our monthly newsletter, ‘Inside Eye on UK DRI'.

Article published: 30 August 2022

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