The £1.63M gift from Lily Safra and the Edmond J. Safra Foundation will support fellowships for rising stars in Parkinson's Disease research.
The Edmond and Lily Safra Fellowship will offer four exceptional early-career scientists researching Parkinson’s disease and related neurodegenerative disorders the opportunity to join Imperial’s Department of Brain Sciences and to establish themselves as independent researchers. This represents a substantial increase in research capacity and leadership for research in Parkinson’s disease and related areas, enabling significant new research projects to be initiated.
As well as providing a competitive salary to the Edmond and Lily Safra Fellows, the donation will also provide a start-up grant to enable each Fellow to begin laboratory work immediately, to quickly establish a research group and to acquire the preliminary data to make their ideas competitive for external research funding. Fellows will also be able to access funding for specialist equipment and be assigned a mentor, who will support their development as early career academics.
The gift comes at an important moment in the development of Parkinson’s disease research at Imperial. The Department of Brain Sciences at Imperial College London and the Imperial College Healthcare Trust have a long-standing interest in clinical and basic research for Parkinson’s disease. There are immediate opportunities for growth in this area through the creation in 2018 of the UK Dementia Research Institute (UK DRI) Centre, which brings together an interdisciplinary group of researchers investigating the interaction between lifestyle, environment and brain in the development and progression of dementia, and in 2019 the creation of the UK DRI Care Research & Technology Centre, which will develop new technologies to enable people with neurodegenerative conditions to live safely and independently in their own homes. Two Edmond and Lily Safra Fellows will be associated with each UK DRI Centre, an injection of research expertise that will support each centre in realising its potential.
Each Edmond and Lily Safra Fellow will develop their own research programme. Potential research themes with benefits for patients could include non-invasive, targetable deep brain stimulation for tremor suppression, utilising advances in molecular neuroimaging to better understand the early stages of Parkinson’s disease, and the role of neuroinflammation in late life neurodegenerative disease.
Parkinson's disease affects 1% of the population over the age of 65. The key symptoms are tremor, stiffness and slowness of movement. It can also be associated with a number of other "non-motor" symptoms, including depression, sleep disturbance, fatigue and cognitive impairment. Around 145,000 people in the UK have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and globally an estimated 6.1 million people globally are living with the disease.