Young Investigator’s Meeting

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Wednesday was the first day of the Young Investigator’s meeting. Approximately 120 delegates from across Europe gathered in London to share their latest results on the management, treatment and understanding of the causes of ALS/MND.

Prof Leonard van den Berg, current chair of the European ALS Consortium (EALSC), organisers of the meeting, began by explaining that this was a relaxed and informal meeting – we were encouraged to interact! An hour or so later during his overview of the genetics and epidemiological studies underway in his team in Utrecht, The Netherlands he was to enjoy a number of interactions. Let’s just say that an animated presentation and purple fish was involved!

Before we heard from Leonard, the conference was opened by a talk from Brenda Maddox, the biographer of Rosalind Franklin. Rosalind was an inspirational scientist whose fantastic x-ray crystallography pictures were instrumental in working out the structure of DNA in the 1950s. Unlike the other key players, Crick, Watson and Wilkins, Rosalind was not awarded the Nobel prize for her work. She died tragically young at 37 of ovarian cancer, unaware of her pictures were used to discover the structure of DNA. It was only later that her contribution to this important breakthrough was acknowledged. In writing the book Brenda got to know Watson and Crick well. When someone asked her what Crick thought of Rosalind’s contribution now, she replied “I’ll ask him at dinner tonight!”.

Thus following the footsteps of such a dedicated scientist – quite literally Rosalind Franklin’s labs were in the basement of the building where the conference is being held at King’s College – we settled down to listen to how research is taking us that bit closer to a world free of MND. New ways of accurately measuring quality of life; more on the ongoing debate on the role of energy metabolism in MND and how it should be monitored; and a possible new drug for the treatment of spasticity- with less side effects that the commonly used baclofen were all topics that were debated throughout the afternoon.