What is your current role in EPAD?
With Adrian Mander, I lead the Disease Modelling Workstream in WP2 (Statistical/Methodology Engine Room). Our principal task is to analyse, on an on-going basis, data arising from the EPAD Longitudinal Cohort Study and the EPAD Proof of Concept Trial in order to refine disease models across the EPAD risk spectrum. Our models will help improve understanding of the natural history of Alzheimer’s disease over the entire disease course and improve selection into the EPAD Proof of Concept Trial. I am also part of the EPAD Balancing Committee that is responsible for developing the parent cohort and occasion-specific selection algorithms for participant recruitment into the EPAD Longitudinal Cohort.
What did you do prior to joining EPAD?
Over the last few years, I have been heading up a programme of statistical research into stratified (or precision) medicine and the analysis of complex phenotypes within the MRC Biostatistics Unit in Cambridge. Besides the percentage of my time spent on EPAD, I am involved in a number of other projects, both methodological and applied. Methodologically, I am interested in developing statistical methods which will allow stratification of populations into more homogeneous subgroups based on response to treatment, level of risk, prognosis, mechanism, etc. with the ultimate goal of improving individuals’ health by the targeting of therapies and optimising decision making at appropriate times according to characteristics shared by these subgroups of individuals. Much of my statistical methodological work has been motivated by my involvement in a number of important medical areas. I have a longstanding interest in the rheumatology field in diseases such as Psoriatic Arthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. I have previously been involved in the modelling of the 2009 A/H1N1 pandemic and I am, currently, engaged with the Dementias Platform UK Initiative.
Tell us a bit about your organisation
Since the inception of the UK Medical Research Council (MRC) by Royal Charter in 1913, there has been a statistical unit. The MRC Biostatistics Unit in Cambridge is its present day incarnation. We recently celebrated our centenary, and are one of the largest groups of biostatisticians in Europe. Our mission is “to advance biomedical science by maintaining an international leading centre for the development, application and dissemination of statistical methods”. We achieve this by having a critical mass of world leading scientists with methodological, applied and computational expertise, providing a stimulating environment for cutting edge biostatistical research and being pro-active and responsive to present and future challenges in medical statistics, clinical trials and public health.
What are your expectations from this EPAD project?
Being part of a project that has the potential to transform the lives of millions of people worldwide, who might otherwise progress to Alzheimer’s disease dementia, is exciting but also places a responsibility/duty upon those involved in EPAD to make it an epitome of successful global collaborative research between all stakeholders for the benefit of public health. I am expecting that the novel disease modelling work on the EPAD Longitudinal Cohort and Proof of Concept Trial will have an impact on our understanding of Alzheimer’s disease, especially, in the pre-clinical and prodromal populations. This may then help to advance research, treatment and management of sufferers and, ultimately, go some way towards preventing Alzheimer’s dementia.