Energising collaboration: First cross-centre postdoctoral research awards announced

Synergy Collaboration Uk Dri

We believe that collaboration will be at the heart of future breakthroughs for people affected by dementia. To stimulate productive new academic relationships, we recently launched our cross-centre postdoctoral researcher scheme and are delighted to announce the successful projects which span development of sophisticated new biomarkers to pioneering characterisation of synaptic changes in Alzheimer’s disease.

Designed to facilitate exciting emerging science and foster collaboration between the UK DRI centres, the cross-centre programme provides funding to pairs of UK DRI Group Leaders (or associated members) for one postdoctoral researcher over three years, who will share their time between two labs at different UK DRI centres. We hope the post holder will benefit greatly from the shared expertise of the Group Leaders and access to state-of-art technology and resources.

The three following successful projects perfectly satisfied our joint criteria of well-balanced collaboration and novel and significant research – more detail can be found below. They are:

1. Prof Chris Shaw, UK DRI at King’s and Prof Dave Sharp, UK DRI Care Research & Technology
- Using wearable technology to identify novel biomarkers in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) 

2. Prof David Klenerman, UK DRI at Cambridge and Prof Henrik Zetterberg, UK DRI at UCL
- Investigating protein aggregates as an early biomarker of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease

3. Prof Paul Matthews & Dr Johanna Jackson, UK DRI at Imperial & Prof Seth Grant (Associated Member), University of Edinburgh
- Characterising changes in synapses observed during the development of Alzheimer’s disease 

Dr Aoife Kiely, UK DRI Science Review Manager, said:

“For a completely new programme, we were thrilled with the quality of applications received and look forward to seeing the projects develop. By encouraging researchers to think how their research can complement others, we hope this mentality will carry across all aspects of UK DRI and ultimately benefit our progress in finding treatments for dementia.”

The postdoctoral vacancies for these projects will be open in the coming months so keep an eye on, and share with your networks.

The deadline for the next round of cross-centre postdoctoral awards is 31 March 2020. The scheme is open to pairs of UK DRI Group Leaders from different centres or a UK DRI Group Leader and a recognised UK DRI Associated Member based at a different university. For full information, please see the latest request for proposals

Chris Shaw Dave Sharp

Remote home assessment of patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: a multimodal integrative approach

Chris Shaw and Dave Sharp unite the technological and analytical expertise of their centres to better understand disease progression and identify new biomarkers in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Motor neuron degeneration in the condition is typically measured using the invasive process of electromyography, which can be painful for the person with ALS and only has the ability to assess a few motor units at a time. This project will bring together the wearable technology of high-density surface electromyography (HDSEMG) with the Surface Potential Quantification Engine (SPiQE) analytical tool developed at King’s with the Technology Integrated Health Management (TIHM) established at Care Research & Technology to obtain a rich and holistic dataset from a cohort of people with ALS in the home environment. Building on this data could enable clinical trials to better assess the efficacy of treatments or allow clinicians to better monitor the progression of the condition.

David Klenerman Henrik Zetterberg

Development of a blood-based assay for early diagnosis of neurodegenerative disease by sensitive detection of aggregates in serum

David Klenerman and Henrik Zetterberg will use this award to recruit a postdoctoral researcher to use single aggregate imaging in Cambridge and sensitive clinical assays at UCL and assess serum biomarkers from people with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. At Cambridge the postdoc will develop a method to sensitively capture aggregates present in serum, optimising using direct imagine at super-resolution the aggregates present in serum. Then at UCL, the postdoc will use SIMOA which will determine the amount of disease associated protein aggregates present in the serum. Future studies will further refine and scale up this method, potentially developing an accurate method of early disease diagnosis. 

Paul Matthews Seth Grant

Synaptome and synapse proteome analysis of the multi-‘omics atlas project

Paul Matthews and Seth Grant are joining forces to characterise the synaptic proteome in Alzheimer’s brain as the condition progresses. The project will use brain tissue donated to the Multi-‘omics Atlas Project (MAP), led by Scientific coordinator Dr Johanna Jackson based at Imperial. The postdoc will begin the three-year project in Edinburgh, learning synaptome mapping techniques and synaptosome prep for mass spectrometry in anticipation of the arrival of MAP samples. The second part of the project will be based at Imperial, with collaborator Prof Zoltan Takats, where the postdoc will establish synaptosome prep using MAP samples and proteomics. The data gathered from this project will be fed into the MAP data platform, which will form the most comprehensive characterisation of Alzheimer’s disease brain to date.

Article published: 20 February 2020