Prof Giovanna Mallucci: Neurodegeneration: molecules to medicines

Professor Giovanna Mallucci is a Programme Leader at the MRC Toxicology Unit, Leicester, and a Professor of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Cambridge. Her research group works on understanding the mechanisms of neurodegeneration and neurotoxicity.

The central research theme is the identification of common pathways across the spectrum of neurodegenerative disorders (which include Alzheimer’s and related diseases) that are relevant for both mechanistic insights and therapy. Her group focuses on both the ‘toxic’ processes that can be targeted to prevent neuronal death, and on regenerative processes that can be harnessed for repair. Using mouse models, the group has described the pathogenic role of the unfolded protein response (UPR) in neurodegeneration, which led to the discovery of the first small molecule – an inhibitor of this pathway – to prevent neurodegeneration in vivo. Her group also recently discovered the phenomenon of failure of synaptic repair processes in neurodegeneration and the underlying mechanisms: failure of another stress response involving ‘cold shock’ proteins, which they have successfully harnessed for neuroprotection. They aim to translate this research for new treatments for dementia.