New Race Against Dementia Fellows recognised as UK DRI Emerging Leaders

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This World Alzheimer’s Day (21 September), we are delighted to announce two new Emerging Leaders at the UK DRI: Dr Wioleta Zelek (UK DRI at Cardiff) and Dr Aitana Sogorb-Esteve (UK DRI at UCL). Both have been awarded prestigious Race Against Dementia (RAD) Fellowships and join the 11 Emerging Leaders announced earlier in the year.

The UK DRI Emerging Leaders initiative was established in May 2021 to support outstanding research fellows on their journey to independence. Sponsored and hosted by a UK DRI Group Leader, the researchers are recognised for their growing research experience and ability to secure a source of external funding such as a RAD Fellowship. As an Emerging Leader, those appointed receive support from their sponsors, are entitled to apply for particular internal funding schemes and have access to cross-centre collaboration with the other Emerging Leaders, among other benefits.


Dr Zelek (left) and Dr Sogorb-Esteve (right) are among four newly-announced RAD Fellows, selected by RAD, in collaboration with Alzheimer’s Research UK, for their ambitious dementia research ideas. RAD is a charity founded by Sir Jackie Stewart OBE, three-time Formula 1 World Champion, after his wife was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia. It raises money to fuel breakthroughs in dementia research, including awarding fellowships to promising early careers researchers. As RAD Fellows and UK DRI Emerging leaders, Dr Zelek and Dr Sogorb-Esteve join Dr Cara Croft (UK DRI at UCL) and Dr Claire Durrant (UK DRI at Edinburgh) in receiving support and collaborative opportunities from world-leading dementia researchers.

Becoming a UK DRI Emerging Leader will be incredibly valuable for the development of my career. I am thrilled to be part of a programme that will hugely benefit my research and help people living with dementia. Dr Aitana Sogorb-Esteve, UK DRI Emerging Leader

Dr Wioleta Zelek, sponsored by UK DRI Group Leader Prof Paul Morgan, will focus on developing drugs that can reduce the inflammation associated with Alzheimer’s disease. She aims to specifically target a protein complex of the complement system that may be responsible for harmful inflammation in Alzheimer’s disease, while leaving the rest of the system intact to fight threats such as bacteria, as part of the innate immune system.

“It is a great privilege to be recognised as a UK DRI Emerging Leader which will help me in my long-term goal of becoming a research leader in the field of neuroinflammation.” said Dr Zelek. “The UK DRI at Cardiff offers so many brilliant collaborative opportunities, allowing me to learn from and work alongside world leaders in dementia research.

I would like to thank Professor De Strooper and the UK DRI Directors for this recognition, and also Sir Jackie Stewart and the Alzheimer’s Research UK-Race Against Dementia committee for the award of the Fellowship, and the incredible opportunities associated with it.”

Dr Aitana Sogorb-Esteve, jointly sponsored by Prof Jonathan Rohrer (Dementia Research Centre, UCL) and Group Leader Prof Henrik Zetterberg (UK DRI at UCL), will investigate how the damaged synapses of neurons during frontotemporal dementia can be detected by identifying indicative biomarkers. This will involve developing sensitive tests to measure these biomarkers in the blood.

Sir Jackie Stewart OBE, said: 

“I am delighted to announce the appointment of RAD’s four new 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 Race Against Dementia and helping us to make a difference to dementia research.”

The UK DRI would like to congratulate all newly awarded RAD Fellows including Dr Emily Hill from the University of Warwick and Dr Maura Malpetti from the University of Cambridge. You can find more about RAD and its Fellows on their website.

Article published: 21 September 2021
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