Meet the WPC 2022 Science Ambassadors

It’s with great pleasure that we introduce the WPC 2022 Science Ambassadors. We have selected eight Ambassadors from six countries who speak seven different languages between them and who have been researching Parkinson's for more than 96 years combined.

They have all attended at least one World Parkinson Congress and found the WPC experience to be life changing and something they want other scientists to experience.  Ambassadors will work as part of our outreach team as we plan for the WPC 2022 in Barcelona, Spain from June 7 – 10, 2022. Their focus leading up to the Congress is to help drive up participation of scientists to attend the WPC. 

The WPC is a premiere Parkinson’s learning experience for scientists and we want to make sure they get the WPC on their radar and make it a priority to submit research to present in Barcelona. We need to ensure more scientists are in Barcelona to help us move the dial on advancing knowledge around Parkinson’s and getting us closer to a cure. 

Dayne Beccano-Kelly

Dayne Beccano-Kelly, PhD (UK): is a career development fellow at the University of Oxford.  As part of the Oxford Parkinson’s Disease Centre, Dayne utilises stem cells derived from skin biopsies kindly donate by PwP. Using these stem cells he creates human neurons as a model for understanding the mechanisms behind the earliest stages of Parkinson’s. 

Dayne’s obtained his PhD at the University of Leeds and over the subsequent 16 years he has studied a range of neurodegenerative conditions including Progressive Supranuclear Palsy , Alzheimer’s and PD.  

His career to date has focused on the thing that makes neurons special: chemo-electric signalling and synaptic activity.  Focusing at the synaptic level and utilising a mix of electrophysiological, molecular and biochemical techniques, he has identified some of the earliest changes in Parkinsonian models in an effort to tackle the symptoms before the late stage clinical manifestation. 

Judith Bek

Judith "Jude " Bek,  PhD (UK): is a researcher in the Body Eyes and Movement (BEAM) laboratory, in the Division of Neuroscience and Experimental Psychology at the University of Manchester, UK. Her work encompasses both basic science and translational research into cognitive-motor processes in Parkinson’s. Her research aims to increase understanding of how Parkinson’s affects the ability to represent movement internally, such as through motor imagery, action observation and imitation, and conversely how these processes may be utilized to facilitate movement and daily activities. She has conducted laboratory studies using kinematic analysis and eye tracking, as well as developing and testing therapeutic applications through home-based training (using mobile technology) and dance. She works collaboratively with researchers across different disciplines, patient representatives, healthcare professionals and dance organizations.

Xi Chen

Xi Chen, PhD (US): is a Research Scientist at the Van Andel Research Institute. Her research focuses on the inherited form of Parkinson’s disease and how genetic mutations and faulty molecular interactions may transform healthy, functioning neurons into diseased ones and contribute to Parkinson’s disease. Dr. Chen has a BSc in Anatomy and Human Biology and a Master of Research in Biomedical Sciences. After receiving her PhD in Physiology from University of Liverpool, she moved in 2014 to Michigan US and completed her postdoctoral training with Professor Darren Moore at the Van Andel Research Institute. For three years, her research were funded by American Parkinson Disease Association and Parkinson’s Foundation Post-Doctoral Fellowships. Thanks to the travel support from the WPC, she was able to attend and present her work at the 5th World Parkinson Congress in Kyoto, Japan. Outside the lab, she enjoys art, yoga, kickboxing, hiking, travelling, and reading. She applied to be a 2022 WPC Science Ambassador because she wants to do her bit to foster, build, and deepen connections within and across our communities. She is eager to pass along her knowledge and encouragement to others and hoping her skills and experience from a scientific perspective will intersect with the mission, vision and values of WPC as we strive towards smashing global barriers in terms of reducing the stigma and raising awareness of Parkinson’s disease.

Marie Fuzzati

Marie Fuzzati, PhD (France): is the Scientific Officer of France Parkinson, the main French patients’ association. A true European, she was born in Switzerland from a German mother and a Spanish to father and married an Italian. After living in many cities across the world, Marie has now settled in Paris. Her research career started with a PhD in molecular biology. Five years of fundamental research convinced Marie that she needed to get closer to the clinical world. The brain always intrigued her, and her interest turned to Parkinson’s disease. After 15 years of preclinical research dedicated Parkinson’s disease, she felt unsatisfied and needed to get closer to the people living with the disease. Marie reached out to France Parkinson and started helping the association as a volunteer. Today, she is in charge of the association’s scientific issues. She tries to reach out to as many people as possible so they can have a better understanding of the disease, of what is at stake in scientific research, and what is in the pipeline in clinical research. Marie is a true believer that any research needs the close involvement of those who know the disease best, the patients. The expertise of clinicians and researcher remains dry without the profound contribution and knowledge shaped by the direct experience of the people living with Parkinson. Yet the experience needs the knowledge and expertise of science to fight this terrible disease. Only a fruitful dialogue between experience and expertise can a solution for better care and treatment emerge. Marie is thrilled be a part of the WPC Scientific Ambassador group.

Richard Gordon

Richard Gordon, PhD (Australia): is a Group Leader in Clinical Neuroscience at The University of Queensland, Australia. He has been working in the field of Parkinson’s research since commencing his PhD on how the immune system and inflammation contribute to Parkinson’s disease, and how the harmful effects of inflammation on the brain can be reduced. His recent work has focused on inflammasome pathways, which have been shown to orchestrate inflammation in Parkinson’s and other brain diseases. His journey to understand what causes Parkinson’s, and how it can be stopped, has spanned three continents so far. Richard is also a Certified Toxicologist with the American Board of Toxicology and has a keen interest in how environmental factors, such as chemical exposures, can contribute to Parkinson’s disease. He currently leads the Translational Neuroscience Laboratory at the University of Queensland. His team uses clinical studies and experimental models to identify mechanisms and pathways involved in the disease with the ultimate aim of developing new treatments and biomarkers for earlier diagnosis. 

Adriana Laguna

Ariadna Laguna, PhD (Spain): is a senior researcher and principal investigator at the Neurodegenerative Diseases Research Group of the Vall d’Hebron Research Institute (VHIR) since December 2016, first funded by a Young Investigator contract from the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (MINECO), and currently by a Junior Leader contract from La Caixa Banking Foundation. Dr. Laguna’s scientific career has been focused in understanding the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying human diseases affecting the central nervous system, either with a neurodevelopmental or a neurodegenerative etiology. First, with a PhD at the Center for Genomic Regulation (CRG, Barcelona, Spain) focusing on Down Syndrome. Next, with a postdoctoral period at the Karolinska Institutet (KI, Stockholm, Sweden) working in transcription factors and Parkinson’s disease. Currently, focused on her own lines of research within the group of Neurodegenerative Diseases-VHIR (Barcelona, Spain) in the study of the metabolome and the microbiome in Parkinson’s disease, with the aims of deciphering some key pathophysiological mechanisms, developing biomarkers and testing new modulatory therapeutic strategies. She has a broad experience in the field and a long experience in working effectively as part of complex, international collaborations producing high-impact and high-value scientific results. Finally, she is active in training/mentoring (PhD, master and high school students) and outreach activities to promote science and Parkinson’s disease awareness.

Ignacio Mata

Ignacio "Nacho " Mata, PhD (US): is currently Assistant Staff at the Genomic Medicine Institute (GMI) at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and Assistant Professor of Molecular Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University. Previously to his position at the GMI he was at the VA Puget Sound/UW for 12 years. He has worked in the field of Parkinson's disease (PD) genetics for nearly 20 years. A significant focus of Dr. Mata's research has been performing genetic studies in non-European populations, especially those with a minority ethnic background such as Latinos. For this Dr. Mata created and coordinates the Latin American Research consortium on the Genetics of PD (LARGE-PD), a collaboration of more than 35 institutions in 12 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, trying to identify the genetic risk factors associated to PD in these populations. 

Mattia Volta

Mattia Volta, PhD (Italy): is a Senior Research and Group Leader at the Institute for Biomedicine, Eurac Research (Italy) and he devoted his entire career to studying Parkinson´s disease. He obtained a PhD in Molecular Pharmacology from the University of Ferrara (Italy), studying the neuronal circuitry mediating motor abilities in rodent models of parkinsonism. Then, he moved to the University of British Columbia (Vancouver) where he studied the pathophysiology of LRRK2 in genetic rodent models and neuronal cultures.
Currently, his team aims at clarifying molecular and cellular mechanisms that underlie onset and progression of Parkinson´s disease, and identify novel therapeutic strategies.

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