A time to celebrate

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Last night I attended Professor Linda Greensmith’s inaugural lecture. When a researcher is awarded a ‘personal chair’ (in other words becomes a professor) they are requested to give a non-technical ‘inaugural’ lecture to an invited audience. It is an opportunity to celebrate their achievements amongst family, friends, colleagues and supporters.

The title of Professor Greensmith’s presentation was ‘MND: from muscle to nerve and back again’. She described her achievements in understanding more about MND since she was awarded the Graham Watts Senior Fellowship at the Institute of Neurology, UCL in 1999.

It was a brilliant overview of some of the key advances that have been made in the last ten years or so. Some of these include the importance of the support cells and muscles in determining how motor neurones die, and the discovery that a protein called ‘TDP43’ accumulates in the motor neurones of the majority of people affected by MND. Linda talked about her work on developing robust methods for studying MND using mouse models; some cutting edge research on learning how the motor neurone transport system is affected in MND and the ‘back story’ behind the arimoclomol clinical trials currently underway in the USA. She also paid generous tribute to the way that the MND Association has supported her work during this time.

As well as understanding more about MND, some of the aims of the Graham Watts Senior Fellowship were to promote MND research within the Institute and encourage collaborative research. A clear measure of the success of both of these was the roar of conversation at the reception afterwards. It was difficult to make yourself heard amongst her colleagues and collaborators! For me it was a great opportunity to catch up with past and present researchers from Professor Greensmith’s laboratory. Many of these are current grantees, members of our advisory panels or care centre directors – or in some cases, all three! I was very proud to be there.