Dementia researcher awarded prestigious fellowship
A former Newcastle BRC trainee receives a highly coveted Clinician Scientist Fellowship with the Medical Research Council.
Dr Paul Donaghy began studying for his PhD at Newcastle University in 2012, funded by the Newcastle Biomedical Research Centre (BRC). Since 2019, he has been a Consultant at Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust 2019, and has continued to carry out dementia research at Newcastle University. This year, he has been successful in receiving a new Fellowship role with the Medical Research Council (MRC), which will begin in February 2022.
Speaking about pursuing a career that combines research and clinical work, Dr Donaghy commented:
While completing my PhD with the Newcastle BRC, I realised I wanted to continue research activity alongside patient work. It is very fulfilling, and I realised I could make a real difference to dementia care. To continue, I needed to secure independent funding; something that is crucial in developing a research career, yet highly competitive.
Bridging the gap in research training
To support clinical academics in securing research experience in this competitive landscape, the Newcastle BRC created Intermediate Clinical Fellowships (ICFs). ICFs are a key part of Newcastle BRC’s support for trainees and Early Career Researchers (ECRs) and were designed to provide funding to bridge the gap for newly qualified researchers who wanted to pursue research activities.
Dr Donaghy began his BRC Intermediate Clinical Fellowship in 2019; a position that allowed him to advance his skills in brain imaging analysis, and develop a research proposal in collaboration with researchers at Newcastle University, Southampton and Paris. This support was crucial to his success in gaining the MRC Clinician Scientist Fellowship position. He added:
As an NIHR Newcastle BRC-funded Intermediate Clinical Fellow, I had the unique opportunity to continue with my research interests while maintaining my vital patient-facing work. Without this, I would not have been able to develop the MRC Clinician Scientist Fellowship proposal. I am very grateful to the Newcastle BRC for this support.
Researching dementia with Lewy bodies with the MRC
Dr Donaghy’s new role as Clinician Scientist Fellow with the MRC will develop on his existing work in dementia research and will take place alongside his role as a Consultant Old Age Psychiatrist with Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust.
The Fellowship will look at glial cells in the brains of people with early dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) using brain imaging and post-mortem brain tissue. Glial cells are specialised cells in the brain with a range of roles including controlling brain inflammation and removing unwanted material from around brain cells. Previous research, including the NIHR Newcastle BRC-funded LewyPro and AMPLE studies, has suggested that inflammation may play a role in the early stages of DLB.
During the six-year Fellowship, Dr Donaghy will increase our understanding of disease pathophysiology with a view to identifying novel treatments to improve and individualise the management of DLB in clinical practice.