“Research is all about increasing quality of life and cannot happen without public participation.”

“Never be afraid to ask questions, even though we, as scientists, don’t have all the answers.”

“Take care of your brain by embracing a lifestyle that promotes its overall health.”

What in your opinion are the most pressing issues in research into neurodegenerative diseases?
Neurodegenerative diseases present us with several paradoxes: A number of conditions share several features in common, and yet even within a particular disease, a subset of patients display dissimilar symptomatic profiles and pathological features. In conditions like Huntington’s disease, there is a clear genetic cause, whereas in others, such as Alzheimer’s disease, genetic mutations are only present in a small subcategory of individuals. Unfortunately, there is also a lack of models that really work, and this makes it difficult to understand the complex pathophysiological mechanisms involved. The identification of biomarkers that potentially predict neurodegenerative diseases in the pre-symptomatic stage will not only help in diagnosis but will also enhance our understanding of the underlying pathological mechanisms.

What advice would you give to young researchers who want to build a career in this field of research?
Work hard, be passionate and never shy away from asking questions. Neuroscience is a challenging field, so expect the unexpected.

How can research into healthcare and social care be better supported to build up its capacity?
Countries that have committed themselves to enhancing the level of research in health and social care are increasing, as can be testified to by the various national dementia strategies that have been launched in recent years. Although research may be seen as an element of risk in terms of return on investment, it is essential for the promotion of well being and modernisation of health and social services. High-quality research that promotes innovation and good practice while ensuring scientific collaboration, public involvement and effective transfer of knowledge will have a positive impact on the lives of people living with neurodegenerative conditions.

What impact do you think JPND is having on neurodegenerative disease research?
The challenges that neurodegenerative diseases present to us are far too many, and thus coordinating our efforts is a major prerequisite in responding to this. Besides, joining forces is also essential in promoting high-quality scientific research. There is no doubt that JPND’s Research Strategy is reaping its fruits, as can be attested to by the level of response to the scientific calls.

In your opinion, what is the benefit of JPND for patients and/or patient organisations?
JPND is already benefiting the lives of people living with neurodegenerative diseases and their caregivers. Just by taking a look at the supported research projects under the JPND 2012 translational call, which focused on themes evaluating health care policies, strategies and interventions for neurodegenerative diseases, one can appreciate the impact that such research will have on areas such as timely diagnosis and access to care.

Click here to read Charles Scerri’s biography.

January 22, 2016