Scientific Advisors

Prof. Sir Chris Dobson
(In Memoriam)
Prof. Sir Chris Dobson
(In Memoriam)

FRS FMedSci, John Humphrey Plummer Professor of Chemical and Structural Biology at the University of Cambridge and Master of St John’s College, Cambridge

Remembering Sir Chris Dobson (1949-2019)

Professor Sir Chris Dobson was the John Humphrey Plummer Professor of Chemical and Structural Biology at the University of Cambridge and Master of St John’s College, Cambridge. He co-founded the Cambridge Centre for Misfolding Diseases and served as Vice-Chairman of the board of Wren. Professor Sir Chris Dobson was a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) and of the Academy of Medical Sciences (FMedSci), and a Foreign Associate of the US National Academy of Sciences. He was the recipient of many honours including the Royal Medal by the Royal Society (2009), the Heineken Prize for Biochemistry and Biophysics (2014) and the Feltrinelli International Prize for Medicine (2014). In 2018, he was awarded a Knighthood by the Queen. He was one of the world’s leading scientists working at the interface of the physical and biological sciences. His work had led to the discovery of fundamental principles that determine the aberrant self-association of protein molecules, and the manner in which such behaviour can give rise to a multitude of human diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. He made very significant contributions to our fundamental understanding of how and why proteins are in most cases able to fold correctly to generate normal biological function, yet in certain circumstances misfold and drive a wide range of diseases. He developed entirely novel biophysical and biochemical approaches for this purpose, and he deployed these techniques to unravel the molecular basis of these highly complex processes.

Nora Bengoa-Vergniory, PhD
ALPHA-SYNUCLEIN AGGREGATION IN PARKINSON’S DISEASE
Nora Bengoa-Vergniory, PhD
ALPHA-SYNUCLEIN AGGREGATION IN PARKINSON’S DISEASE

Nora Bengoa-Vergniory’s research focuses on alpha-synuclein aggregation and neuroinflammation in neurodegeneration, specifically in Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. Although it is known that aggregation and neuroinflammation are key features of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease progression, many unanswered questions persist. Where does the aggregation begin? How does it spread? Which cells respond to it? How do they respond? And, importantly, how can we prevent these processes? Dr. Bengoa-Vergniory’s laboratory leverages genetic models, patient-derived induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, human tissue, and PLA-based assays for the detection of early aggregation to provide novel insights into the role of aggregation and glial activation in Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. In 2022, Dr. Bengoa-Vergniory established her research laboratory at Achucarro Basque Center for Neuroscience, Spain, with the support of Ikerbasque, IBRO, MJFF, and the Spanish Ministry for Science and Innovation while remaining a Research Visitor at Oxford University. She completed her PhD in 2014 at the University of the Basque Country, where she studied the role of Wnt signaling during early neuronal differentiation in human stem cell models. Dr. Bengoa-Vergniory joined the Wade-Martins laboratory at Oxford University in 2015 for her postdoctoral training on the role of alpha-synuclein aggregation in Parkinson’s disease. In 2018, she became an Oxford-BMS/Celgene Research Fellow studying alpha-synuclein aggregation and glial activation in Parkinson’s. Through the years, she has been supported generously by MJFF, ARUK, PDUK, the Guarantors of Brain, the Center of Excellence in Neuroscience, BMS, Ikerbasque, IBRO, the Basque Government, and the Spanish Ministry for Science and Innovation.

Jeffrey L. Cummings, MD, ScD
ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE RESEARCH, DEVELOPMENT, & CLINICAL TRIALS
Jeffrey L. Cummings, MD, ScD
ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE RESEARCH, DEVELOPMENT, & CLINICAL TRIALS

Jeffrey Cummings, MD, ScD, is the Joy Chambers-Grundy Professor of Brain Science, Director of the Chambers-Gundy Center for Transformative Neuroscience, Co-Director of the Pam Quirk Brain Health and Biomarker Laboratory, Department of Brain Health, School of Integrated Health Sciences, University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). Dr. Cummings is globally recognized for his contributions to Alzheimer’s research, drug development, and clinical trials. He has been recognized for his research and leadership contributions in the field of Alzheimer’s disease through the Henderson Award of the American Geriatrics Society (2006), the Ronald and Nancy Reagan Research Award of the national Alzheimer’s Association (2008), the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Society for Behavioral and Cognitive Neurology (2017), the Distinguished Scientist Award of the American Association of Geriatric Psychiatry (2010), the Leadership and Achievement Award by the International Society of CNS Drug Development (2018), the Bengt Winblad Lifetime Achievement Award from the Alzheimer’s Association (2019), the International Psychogeriatric Association Distinguished Service Award (2019), and the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation’s Melvin R. Goodes Prize. He was featured in the GQ (formerly Gentleman’s Quarterly) June 2009 issue as a “Rock Star of Science™.”  Dr. Cummings’ interests embrace clinical trials, developing new therapies for brain diseases, and the interface of neuroscience and society. He was formerly Augustas Rose Professor of Neurology and Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA, Director of the Mary S. Easton Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research at UCLA, Director of the Deane F. Johnson Center for Neurotherapeutics at UCLA, and Director of the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. Dr. Cummings is past president of the Behavioral Neurology Society and of the American Neuropsychiatric Association. He has authored or edited 43 books and published more than 800 peer-reviewed papers. Dr. Cummings completed a Neurology residency and a Fellowship in Behavioral Neurology at Boston University followed by a Research Fellowship in Neuropathology and Neuropsychiatry at the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases, Queen Square, London.

Tuomas Knowles, PhD
BIOPHYSICS & KINETICS
Tuomas Knowles, PhD
BIOPHYSICS & KINETICS

Professor Knowles is a Founder and Head of Kinetics for Wren. He is a Professor of Physical Chemistry and Biophysics in the Department of Chemistry and at the Cavendish Laboratory at the University of Cambridge. Professor Knowles is co-director of the Cambridge Centre for Protein Misfolding Diseases at the University of Cambridge. Professor Knowles has received several distinguished awards for his work including the Harrison Meldola Memorial Prize (2012) and the Corday-Morgan Prize (2017) awarded by The Royal Society of Chemistry, and the Raymond and Beverly Sackler International Prize in Biophysics (2017). Professor Knowles research focuses on applying physical approaches to study the self-assembly of protein molecules in the context of both biological function and malfunction.  His groundbreaking work on the chemical kinetics of protein misfolding and self-assembly, in particular, has transformed our understanding of the pathways that generate the aberrant forms of misfolded proteins believed to be the primary cause of disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Professor Knowles studied Biology at the University of Geneva, and Physics at ETH Zurich. He moved to Cambridge in 2004 to work towards his PhD in the Cavendish Laboratory and the Nanoscience Centre. In 2008 Professor Knowles was elected to a Research Fellowship at St John’s College, Cambridge, and was then appointed successively to a University Lectureship, Readership and Professorship. Since 2016, he holds Professorships in both the Department of Chemistry and the Cavendish Laboratory (Department of Physics). Professor Knowles has co-authored over 200 peer-reviewed scientific articles.

Sara Linse, PhD
PROTEIN BIOPHYSICAL CHEMISTRY
Sara Linse, PhD
PROTEIN BIOPHYSICAL CHEMISTRY

Professor Linse is Founder and Head of the Sweden office for Wren. She is Professor of Physical Chemistry and Molecular Protein Science at Lund University, Sweden. Her current research focuses on protein misfolding and self-assembly, including the aggregation process, the influence of intrinsic and extrinsic factors, and coaggregation between lipids and proteins. Professor Linse’s research has focused on developing new experimental and theoretical tools for studying highly complex systems of misfolding proteins in a quantitative and repeatable manner. Her approaches have made it possible to generate (for the first time) high signal-to-noise data from these systems, and have subsequently revealed fundamental insights into the molecular mechanisms driving these systems, including the importance of auto-catalytic cycles in the protein misfolding and aggregation pathway. Professor Linse has received numerous awards for her work, including the Cozzarelli Prize awarded by the National Academy of Sciences, USA (2007), the IUPAC Distinguished Woman in Chemistry prize (2011), Sweden’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology’s Great Prize (2014) and the FEBS/EMBO Woman in Science Prize (2019). Professor Linse studied Chemical Engineering at Lund University and Stanford University, and received her doctorate in Physical Chemistry from Lund.  In 2009, Professor Linse became a Member of the Nobel Prize Committee for Chemistry; she served as Chair of the Committee from 2015-2017, and continued as a Member of the Committee until 2020. Professor Linse has co-authored over 245 peer-reviewed scientific articles.

Kelvin Luk, PhD, MTR
BIOLOGY AND PATHOGENESIS OF ALPHA-SYNUCLEINOPATHIES
Kelvin Luk, PhD, MTR
BIOLOGY AND PATHOGENESIS OF ALPHA-SYNUCLEINOPATHIES

Kelvin Luk is Research Associate Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine and the Penn Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research (CNDR). His research aims to untangle the relationship between the formation of alpha-synuclein pathology that characterizes Parkinson’s disease and related disorders [e.g., dementia with Lewy bodies and multiple system atrophy (MSA)] as well as its contribution to neuronal dysfunction and degeneration. Using a multidisciplinary approach spanning in vitro, cell-based, and in vivo models, Dr. Luk’s team has been revealing the mechanisms by which this protein misfolds into pathological agents that self-propagate and transmit between cells. His group developed several novel cell- and animal-based models of synucleinopathy that are widely used in the field. This knowledge base has also been leveraged toward developing innovative tools for detecting neurodegeneration-related proteins and to evaluate emerging therapies for neurodegenerative disorders. Dr. Luk received his PhD from McGill University and completed his postdoctoral training at the University of Pennsylvania.

Rajesh Pahwa, MD
CLINICAL TRIALS FOR PARKINSON’S DISEASE THERAPEUTICS
Rajesh Pahwa, MD
CLINICAL TRIALS FOR PARKINSON’S DISEASE THERAPEUTICS

Rajesh Pahwa is the Laverne and Joyce Rider Professor of Neurology, Chief of the Parkinson’s and Movement Disorder Division, and Director of Parkinson Foundation Center of Excellence at the University of Kansas Medical Center. Dr. Pahwa joined the faculty of the Department of Neurology as an instructor in 1992 and was named the inaugural recipient of the Laverne and Joyce Rider Professorship in 2005. Dr. Pahwa is also a Diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, and he directs the Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorder Center at The University of Kansas Health System. Dr. Pahwa’s research focuses on the various aspects of Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor, and he is currently involved in studies related to medical and surgical forms of therapies for Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor. In addition to publishing more than 250 peer-reviewed articles, chapters, and abstracts in leading neurology and movement disorder journals, he has conducted more than 150 clinical trials related to Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders. Dr. Pahwa is the co-editor of Handbook of Parkinson’s Disease (3rd and 4th editions), Therapy of Parkinson’s Disease (3rd edition), and Handbook of Essential Tremor and other Tremor Disorders. He also is co-author of the book, Parkinson’s Disease: Questions and Answers (4th edition). Dr. Pahwa received his M.B.B.S. (M.D.) degree at Seth G.S. Medical College, University of Bombay, India. He completed an internship in medicine followed by a residency in Neurology, both at Baylor College of Medicine. He then completed a one-year fellowship in movement disorders at the University of Kansas Medical Center.

Michele Vendruscolo, PhD
BIOPHYSICS & PROTEIN REGULATION
Michele Vendruscolo, PhD
BIOPHYSICS & PROTEIN REGULATION

Professor Vendruscolo is a Founder of Wren. He is a Professor of Biophysics and co-director of the Cambridge Centre for Protein Misfolding Diseases at the University of Cambridge. Professor Vendruscolo’s research interests are focused on the investigation of the physico-chemical principles of protein homeostasis and their application to the development of therapeutic strategies against neurodegenerative diseases. His methods offer new insights into the manner in which physics and chemistry regulate the biochemical reactions taking place in living organisms, and have led him to clarify the fundamental role that protein solubility has in the maintenance of protein homeostasis. Professor Vendruscolo has demonstrated how these approaches provide a rational basis for diagnostic and therapeutic strategies to combat some of the most prevalent and still incurable protein misfolding diseases. Professor Vendruscolo has received several awards for his work, including the Soft Matter & Biophysical Chemistry award from the Royal Society of Chemistry (2013) and the Giuseppe Occhialini Prize from the UK Institute of Physics (2017). Professor Vendruscolo received his PhD in Condensed Matter Physics in 1996 from the International School for Advanced Studies in Trieste (Italy). He then spent two years as post-doctoral fellow at the Weizmann Institute of Science (Israel), before moving to Oxford, where he worked in collaboration with Chris Dobson. He later moved to Cambridge and was appointed successively as a Royal Society University Research Fellow, a Lecturer, a Reader and a Professor (2010). Professor Vendruscolo has co-authored over 300 peer-reviewed scientific articles.

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