Our UK DRI Partnership Showcase – An Early Career Researcher’s Perspective

Written by Nonye Nwuke, DEMON Network Research Assistant

On the 17th July 2020, the DEMON Network collaborated with the UK Dementia Research Institute (DRI) for its inaugural partnership Research Showcase. The event highlighted the strength of the UK DRI and DEMON Network to bring together experts in different fields, showcasing the opportunities for knowledge exchange and collaboration to drive forward experimental dementia research.

“I was impressed by the ability of the speakers to communicate their findings in an accessible way”

As an undergraduate pursuing a career in the sciences, I had limited knowledge regarding data science and its ability to transform dementia research. Upon attending, I was impressed by the ability of the speakers to communicate their findings in an accessible way whilst also relaying the importance of their individual themes to advancing dementia research.

Dr Michele Veldsman’s talk on MRI markers of cerebrovascular cognitive impairment introduced the importance of openly available datasets like the UK Biobank as powerful resources. I was able to grasp the advantages of working with large data sets through her research findings, such as the ability to deduce patterns in data which may not be otherwise seen in smaller cohorts. Michelle’s data-driven approach to research was unlike what I have encountered throughout my studies, and I am intrigued to learn more about this in the future.

“this event provided me with valuable insight into the variety of themes underlying dementia research

The research presented by Dr Nathan Skene also reinforced the importance of data-driven approaches. He discussed using large data sets, focusing on the use of genetics to determine underlying mechanisms behind brain disorders. I had come across RNA sequencing when studying the Principles of Medical Research module at university. However, it was interesting to note how this could be practically applied within academic research.

Finally, Professor Graham Ball discussed machine learning for biomarker discovery, pathway modelling and potential causality determination in Alzheimer’s disease. Despite being least familiar with machine learning and bioinformatics, I found the talk engaging. I particularly appreciated learning how these complex pathway models were created and interpreted.

To conclude, this event provided me with valuable insight into the variety of themes underlying dementia research. With future collaborative initiatives on the agenda, the DEMON Network and UK DRI have taken the first steps to ensure real-world impact!

DEMON goes global!

We originally envisioned DEMON as a UK National Network. However, our membership surpassed our expectations, reaching 29 countries worldwide. With a presence on 6 continents, we are advancing our aim to revolutionize dementia research and healthcare through interdisciplinary collaboration.

The diverse array of countries our members are from reflects the high level of interest we have received. Our list of top 10 countries boasts members from Finland, India, and Nigeria, encouraging inclusivity and innovation in science.

Members currently represent 111 universities and 64 other organisations. We hope these figures will continue to climb as our influence spreads across institutions.

Additionally, we are pursuing strategic partnerships with industry so the network can progress towards financial self-sustainability. We have 51 DEMON members with background in industry, increasing our potential industry contacts. Our membership represents 48 commercial companies with varied interests, such as AI, software development, pharmaceuticals, and technology.

Examples of commercial companies represented by DEMON membership

Achieving a global membership in under 8 months is no easy feat and was achieved through different means, such as relentless sharing on our social media platforms. We urge you to follow us on Twitter (@DEMONNetworkUK) and LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/company/demon-network/) so we can continue to grow our membership to new heights.