Being part of Sir Jackie’s vision of Race Against Dementia and bringing fresh talent into dementia research, became more real when in the Summer of 2019 I interviewed for the fellowship position after submitting my application in January of the same year. Since then, the initial 3 ARUK-RAD fellows, Dr. Christy Hung, Dr. Claire Durrant and I assembled as the initial team of fellows, shortly joined by Dr. Ellen Dicks as the RAD-Mayo fellow. The team continues to expand with 2 more RAD Dementia Australia fellows joining us in January, and you could be a part of the team next year when you submit your ARUK-RAD application by 20th January 2021.
My research is focused primarily on the pathologies of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease and how this relates to brain cell dysfunction and death. I am also intrigued by how known genetic risk factors for these diseases may interact with this pathology and affect brain cell function. I use several approaches including adeno-associated viruses, gene editing, organotypic brain slice cultures, in vivo models and imaging to learn more about how these risk genes and the biological pathways that they are involved in could be tweaked to lead to new therapeutics.
Through the flexibility of the fellowship I was able to choose who I wanted to be a part of my team and where I wanted to conduct my research through the offering of secondment opportunities. My work is jointly supervised by Prof. Bart De Strooper of the UCL-UK-DRI and Prof. Todd Golde of the McKnight Brain Institute at the University of Florida. I have also had the opportunity to work with other academics at these universities and mentors from the biotech industry in this project. The fellowship has also enabled me to expand my own small team to have research assistants budgeted for and involved in my work in preparation for their own future scientific and medical careers.
The RAD fellowship also provides a whole host of alternative training opportunities including visits to Red Bull Racing to gain insights into workings of a Formula One team. Other activities have included workshops on understanding F1 performance, personal and team leadership, as well as comprehensive communications training. Like F1 drivers we all receive our own personal coach through Hintsa performance advising us on parts of our daily lives such as sleep and wellbeing which can ultimately affect our core values and performance if not given the attention they deserve.
A RAD fellowship provides a flexible funding package for bold new ideas in dementia research supported by alternative training to advance and develop your research and career. I am excited to see the new areas of research this funding call will support, and to welcoming the new members of the RAD team.
Dr Cara Croft completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Manchester and followed up with a PhD at King’s College London. She moved to the University of Florida for a post-doc position to pursue her research into understanding how genetic risk factors for the diseases that cause dementia can lead to brain cell death, pathology and dysfunction. Cara is now a Race Against Dementia Fellow, allowing her to split her time between the University of Florida and UCL UK Dementia Research Institute. Outside of the lab she enjoys travelling and exploring nature.