Published: 2021-02-02 17:11 | Updated: 2021-05-03 15:51

Two projects receive StratNeuro 2021 Startup Grant

Photo: vet ej

StratNeuro has awarded SEK 1,000,000 in start-up grant to Maya Ketzef receiving a 2020 VR 'starting grant and Sara Garcia-Ptacek receiving a 2020 facutly-funded Assistant Professor position.

The StratNeuro Start-up Grant is intended to support outstanding Neuroscience researchers at the beginning of their careers, who have received a VR starting grant or a Karolinska Institutet assistant professor grant.

Maya Ketzef, Department of Neuroscience, is the recipient of a 2020 VR ‘starting grant’ for her project entitled The role of pallido-striatal neurons in sensory functions in the intact and parkinonian basal ganglia.

Sara Garcia-Ptacek, Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society receives a 2020 faculty-funded Assistant Professor (Biträdande Lektor) position for her project entitled Translational Identification of Medication Repurpusing Candidates to Slow Cognitive Decline in Dementia.

Two other neuroscience researchers who were granted the assistant professor position are also eligible for this grant but are currently in contract negotiations with departments. If they sign a contract at KI, StratNeuro will support them as well.

Portrait of Maya Ketzef in front of a brick wall
Maya Ketzef. Photo: Matthijs Dorst

We got in touch with Maya and Sara to ask them about their projects.

Maya, tell us about your project!

"My project deals with the sensory function of the cells of the external globus pallidus, a central nucleus in the basal ganglia, which plays an important role in Parkinson’s disease (PD)."

Why is this grant important for you and your research?

"The grant is extremely important, and it makes a big difference especially now when I am starting my independent career and research group".

Who else is involved?

"I started this project while working in the Silberberg lab, and hope to continue this collaboration and others established during my post doc."

How can your research influence patient care and treatment?

"The basal ganglia play a central role in our everyday life, and their dysfunction leads to many diseases of which Parkinson's Disease is the most prevalent. The sensory function of the basal ganglia is altered in PD and these changes can precede the appearance of motor impairments."

"In this project, I would like to shed light onto the mechanisms behind these alterations which may ultimately help to develop a novel diagnostic tool."

What happens next?

"I hope to establish my own group that will study the basal ganglia physiology in health and disease, with focus on the external globus pallidus."
 

Black and white portrait of Sara Garcia-Ptacek.
Sara Garcia-Ptacek. Photo: Selma Wolofsky

Sara, could you give a brief description of your project?

"This project is very simple. We use registries to identify medications which patients already take for other conditions and which are associated with less cognitive decline in patients with dementia. Since these medications are already approved, the path to clinical implementation is short. We will conduct traditional cohort studies but also apply newer machine learning methods."

What does this grant mean for you and for your research?

"This grant will allows me to employ someone new in our team and produce results fast."

Is anyone else involved in the project?

"Yes, we  are a team. Maria Eriksdotter, MD, PhD, Professor and dean of KI South, Hong Xu, MD,PhD Clinical Geriatrics, NVS."

"On the KTH side, Saikat Chatterjee, PhD assoc prof, Arvind Kumar PhD assoc prof and Prof Jeanette Hellgren Kotaleski."

"In the lab we collaborate with Silvia Maioli (assistant professor, Neurogeriatrics NVS)."

What are your future plans? 

"Our hope is to identify a few promising medications and test out potential mechanisms of action in the lab. These medications would potentially benefit patients with dementia, primarily Alzheimer's but other dementia types (such as Parkinson's disease with dementia or Lewy body dementia) will also be examined."

"My hope is that some of the medications we identify might be used to treat Alzheimer's in the future."

Two other neuroscience researchers who were granted the assistant professor position are also eligible for this grant, but are currently in contract negotiations with departments. If they sign a contract at KI, StratNeuro will support them as well.