Investing in the future of australia’s up and coming dementia researchers
Over one million dollars in funding has been distributed by the Dementia Australia Dementia Research Foundation (AADRF) amongst seventeen of Australia’s new and early career researchers.
The 2016 AADRF grants will enable recipients to conduct ground-breaking studies and to address some of the biggest challenges in the field.
AADRF Chair, Professor Graeme Samuel AC, said the grants were essential for growing dementia research across the country.
“We are investing in the next generation of Australian dementia researchers who will be among those making the breakthroughs in dementia prevention, diagnosis, treatment, care and ultimately a cure,” Professor Samuel said.
AADRF Patron and Dementia Australia National Ambassador Professor Henry Brodaty AO said it was important to build capacity in the dementia research community by encouraging talented graduates to embark on a career in the field.
“These enthusiastic early career researchers are ready, willing and now able to make a difference in the field of dementia research,” Professor Brodaty said.
The 2016 round of grants saw Australian National University’s Dr Sarang Kim awarded a $50,000 Hazel Hawke Research Grant in Dementia Care. Dr Kim will use the funding to develop and evaluate an online intervention program known as Dementia Stigma Reduction (DESeRvE),that will aim to reduce dementia-related stigma amongst the general public.
“Dementia is a highly stigmatised condition. This is undoubtedly harmful, leading to low self-esteem and isolation, poorer mental health outcomes in people with dementia and increased stress in caregivers,” said Dr Kim.
“Stigma can also prevent people from seeking help. It is therefore vital to develop programmes to reduce the stigma of dementia and, in doing so, improve the lives of people living with dementia, their families and carers.
“Health care, workplaces and retirement villages will be able to use this intervention to educate their residents and employees about dementia and reduce dementia-related stigma. This intervention program will also be available to policymakers.”
Four PhD scholars will also be supported via the grants, with Ms Jessica Marshall of the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute awarded the coveted Scientia Professor Henry Brodaty PhD Scholarship for her project, Heat shock proteins in Alzheimer's disease.
Previous research has shown that Hsp72 reduces beta amyloid aggregates and the accumulation of tau, proteins which are both associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore, activation of Hsp’s may prove a therapeutic target.
The project aims to look at the role of Hsp72 in preventing amyloid and tau accumulation in the brain and its effect on cognitive function. Experiments will determine whether treatment via activation of Hsp72 can prevent and delay the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
“This generous support will allow me to continue researching in one of science’s most challenging fields. This scholarship means I have the financial capacity to perform research on a novel genetic model, being the most physiologically correct model thus far,” said Ms Marshall.
“I believe it is extremely important to encourage and nurture young, early career scientists as their minds hold the key to important medical findings in the future. I genuinely feel personally encouraged and supported through the AADRF, whose work for the community has had a personal impact on my life, through support while my grandmother lived with, and died of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Ms Marshall.
Consumer Advocate Louise Heuzenroeder has been awarded the Consumer Priority PhD Scholarship. Through her role as a member of Dementia Australia’s Consumer Dementia Research Network, Louise has previously contributed to the development of a number of significant dementia research projects. Her PhD research will focus on the development and pilot testing of the Dignity in Care Survey for acute and subacute care settings.
“Being awarded the Consumer Priority Scholarship is a great privilege and acknowledgement that my proposed research project is worthy of pursuit. The future looks bright if this research contributes to giving consumers and carers a voice in measuring, monitoring and improving dignity in care,” said Ms Heuzenroeder.