Kent student wins prestigious research opportunity

Sam wins research opportunity

Kent resident Sam Bryce-Smith from Cranbook has secured a prestigious PhD Studentship from national charity, the Motor Neurone Disease Association. The Masonic Charitable Foundation PhD Studentship aims to develop and nurture young researchers wanting a career in scientific research into the terminal illness.

Sam has now taken up his post at University College London (UCL), although during the pandemic he has been focusing on desk-based research from his make-shift home office.

Sam’s Studentship has been fully-funded by the Masonic Charitable Foundation, the Freemasons’ charity, which is funded by Freemasons, their families and friends, from across England and Wales.

He is now under the joint supervision of Dr Pietro Fratta and Dr Maria Secrier.

Sam said:

“The chance to contribute to our understanding of disease and provide opportunities for new potential treatments is something that really excites me. However, the chance to have a positive impact on people’s lives through my studies is what really drives me, and I feel this studentship is a fantastic opportunity to do so.”

Aside from wanting to be a footballer as a child, Sam has always been fascinated by nature and how the body works. This fascination led to Sam studying further sciences at school and eventually graduating from the University of Sheffield with a First Class Honours degree in Biochemistry.

Sam’s project is exploring two proteins (TDP-43 and FUS) that are associated with MND and are involved in processing molecules called messenger RNA (the molecule that provides the information for the DNA to make the protein). Sam will see if disrupting the processing of messenger RNA also affects other genes and whether these changes contribute to the early stages of MND.

This could improve understanding of how the disease develops, which in turn may provide new targets to develop treatments that can stop MND in its tracks.

David Innes, Chief Executive of the Masonic Charitable Foundation said:

“I offer Sam my warmest congratulations on winning this very prestigious PhD Studentship. Progress in his research could one day lead to a major breakthrough in stopping this terrible disease.”

Linda Allen, Director of Fundraising at the MND Association said:

“Support like this from the Masonic Charitable Foundation means we can provide the opportunity for young researchers to work under the tutorship of leaders in the field of MND and help us to develop the MND research leaders of the future. Together we will make a difference to those living with and affected by this devastating disease.”

MND is a fatal, rapidly progressing disease that affects the brain and spinal cord, it kills six people in the UK every day and there is no cure. A person’s lifetime risk of developing the disease is 1 in 300. The MND Association is currently aware of around 150 people living with this devastating disease in Kent.


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