mn the SDRC Impact Report 2019, there is a section dedicated to the progress and ongoing work of each of the SDRC research themes. We have already shared excerpts of the report from four of the five themes. Last but not least we are focusing on the Fundamental Science theme, led by Professor Frank Gunn-Moore. Read more below:
Scotland’s fundamental sciences certainly punch above their weight in the field of dementia research, with current numbers of researchers exceeding 170, with the addition of over 40 PhD students. This includes one of the prestigious Alzheimer’s Society Doctoral Training Centres, uniquely combining the expertise from four Scottish Universities: Edinburgh, Dundee, St Andrews and Aberdeen.
This rich background has brought in over £65m in the last five years in grants from a wide-range of funding sources. However, this is not the whole picture as the fundamental sciences by their nature are not just reliant on acknowledged neurodegenerative researchers.
Fundamental sciences can also draw on the expertise of all Life Science researchers in Scotland, plus also the wealth and strength in depth of other disciplines including Chemistry and Physics, making it a truly interdisciplinary field. This cross-discipline approach has been recognised by the higher education institutions and the Scottish Government.
There has been a shift in who is performing this research. Research in this area had been confined to the university sector, with an extensive published literature on the work which has come from these studies. These have provided major break-throughs in our understanding of the mechanisms that underpin many of the neurodegenerating diseases.
This rich vein of fundamental knowledge has led to new and world leading facilities in the efforts to translate this knowledge into potential therapies. The concentration of drug discovery research in Scotland is unprecedented in Europe. It is home to the European Lead Factory, Dundee Drug Discovery, the National Phenotypic Screening Centre, and the Kosterlitz Centre for Therapeutics. These provide examples of large amounts of funds from joint partnerships between Pharmaceutical Industries, Universities and the Government, and totals approximately £200M in investment.
External recognition of the depth and strength in the fundamental sciences has also come from attracting new funds and approaches to Scotland. An important example of this is the awarding of one of the new Dementia Research Institutes (DRI) in Edinburgh (focusing on the fundamental molecular determinates of neurodegeneration).
The DRI launch also led to pump-priming initiatives to promote collaborative research across Scotland. The DRI award was a part of the legacy from the G8 Dementia summit in 2013, with £250M injection of funds into dementia research (other locations are 3 in London, 1 in Cardiff and 1 in Cambridge).
The gathering strength of fundamental science was acknowledged by the SDRC, with the 2019 annual conference in Glasgow focused on this theme. It was also recognised with the launch of the annual “Scottish Neurological Research Fund”, resourced by the Scottish Government and RS Macdonald Charitable Trust. The purpose of this fund is to pump-prime collaborative research across Scotland’s higher education institutions.
This solid basis indicates that research into the fundamental mechanisms that cause neurodegeneration will continue to flourish. Looking to the future we predict the development of additional interdisciplinary approaches.