Race Against Dementia, gives further £2m to accelerate the race against dementia – announcing our new RAD Fellows!

Posted on the 21st September 2021

Following a further £2 million of funding by RAD, and with support from Alzheimer’s Research UK, we’re proud to introduce you to the new Race Against Dementia Fellows.

The new Fellows will join our existing global team harnessing the ambition and innovation of a new generation of scientists, providing them with funding, support and inspiration to accelerate dementia research.

Once again, RAD has partnered with the UK’s leading dementia research charity, Alzheimer’s Research UK, to identify early-career scientists with the most transformational research ideas.

The four new Race Against Dementia Fellows are Dr Emily Hill from the University of Warwick, Dr Aitana Sogorb Esteve, of the UK Dementia Research Institute at University College London, Dr Maura Malpetti, Cambridge University, and Dr Wiola Zelek, of the UK Dementia Research Institute at Cardiff University.

Dr Emily Hill has been appointed as the Race Against Dementia – Barbara Naylor Charitable Trust Fellow, in recognition of the support given by one of RAD’s funders. Dr Hill will unpick the molecular effects of tau tangles – knots of protein that build up in Alzheimer’s disease and affect nerve cells in a variety of different ways. Dr Hill aims to identify which regions of the tau molecule cause which effects, understanding that could help researchers working to produce targeted anti-tau drugs.

Emily said: “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to continue working the field of neurodegeneration and delighted to have been awarded a Race Against Dementia fellowship. This fellowship provides a unique and fantastic opportunity to working alongside Formula One partners who are experts in innovation and problem solving. I look forward to networking and building further worldwide collaborations to accelerate research progress.

My dad has battled Parkinson’s disease for the last 15 years and I have witnessed first-hand the devastating effects that these complex disorders have on both patients and their families. I very grateful to Sir Jackie Stewart for his drive and passion to beat dementia and for putting together this fantastic program to develop early career dementia researchers. I am excited to contribute to solving the big puzzle of dementia and try to reduce the heartbreak and suffering of future families.”

Dr Aitana Sogorb Esteve will explore how nerve cell connections in the brain change in frontotemporal dementia (FTD). These changes are the direct cause of FTD symptoms like communication problems and personality shifts. Dr Sogorb Esteve will reveal new insights into these processes and develop blood test techniques to measure damage to nerve cell connections in FTD.

Aitana said: “The Race Against Dementia Fellowship is an amazing opportunity for my career. I am thrilled to be part of the RAD family and very looking forward to start working with the team and collaborating with my RAD fellows. This fellowship offers the best scenario for developing dementia research thanks to Sir Jackie’s input from Formula One expertise. I am very eager to learn from Formula One engineers and mentors to speed up the developments of my project and apply their ideas to my research. I truly believe the combination of expertise this fellowship offers will be the key to create life-changing breakthroughs.”

Dr Maura Malpetti’s project is focused on clarifying the role of inflammation in FTD. Harmful over-activity of the brain’s own immune system plays an important role in diseases that cause dementia. Dr Malpetti will use blood tests and brain scans to measure inflammation and explore the potential of brain inflammation as a marker that could help improve the diagnosis of FTD.

Maura said: I am so thrilled to become part of the Race Against Dementia family. This 5-year fellowship is a unique opportunity to develop ones own ideas and provide a significant contribution to the fight against dementia, collaborating with centres of excellence in the UK and overseas. I am endlessly grateful to Sir Jackie Stewart, Race Against Dementia and Alzheimer’s Research UK for the chance to join a fantastic team of brilliant minds, and for creating a space that lets us embrace collaborative and fast-paced attitudes, with a motorsports-inspired perspective in our own research and on the road to making a lasting impact on dementia research.”

Dr Wiola Zelek will develop and test potential drugs that could prevent the potentially harmful aspect of brain inflammation. As inflammation is usually a protective process in the brain Dr Zelek will zero in on chemicals that only target only a specific element of this defence mechanism while leaving beneficial processes intact.

Wiola said: “The complement system is a potent driver of inflammation in many diseases, including Alzheimer’s where inflammation is a major factor in the pathogenesis. I hope to develop a new approach to AD therapy; brain penetrant anti-complement drug(s), providing better ways of treating AD and other dementias. I am very grateful and inspired to be part of the RAD-ARUK Team. I am enthused by the philosophy of team work that underpins RAD and look forward to applying the RAD principles to my research.”

You can read more about each of our Fellows and their work here.

Thank you to all our RAD Supporters, without whom, continuing investment in the best Early Career Research talent would not be possible.

Our congratulations go to our new Fellows. Welcome to the team!


I am delighted to announce the appointment of RAD’s four new young Fellows - they are each very talented scientists and will be a great addition to the RAD team. By working together and with the development support that RAD can provide I hope they will be able to make real progress in the fight against dementia. Our thanks go to everyone who continues to support financially Race Against Dementia in helping us to accelerate dementia research.

Sir Jackie Stewart OBE, Founder of Race Against Dementia

We are delighted to work with Race Against Dementia to support these outstanding early career scientists. As well as providing the funding to explore cutting-edge research ideas, the RAD Fellowships offer world-class personal and professional mentoring and opportunities to learn from sectors and industries outside of medical research.

Without new treatments or preventions, one in three children born this year will develop dementia in their lifetimes. It is our greatest long-term medical challenge, and we urgently need to bring more minds to bear in order to tackle it. We’re incredibly grateful to Sir Jackie for his support of these young dementia researchers and the innovative research that will make breakthroughs possible.

Dr Susan Kohlhaas, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK

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