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West Coast alumni celebrate the launch of the Campaign for UCL in San Francisco

17 October 2016

“I was halfway through my breakfast bacon sandwich, which I abandoned for champagne”, Professor John Hardy told UCL’s West Coast alumni at the San Francisco Campaign launch event.

Professor Hardy, of UCL’s Institute of Neurology, was describing the moment he found out he had become the UK’s first winner of the $3m Breakthrough Prize – created by tech superstars including Mark Zuckerberg and Sergey Brin to recognise game changing science. Describing the moment he visited Zuckerberg’s house, he commented: “I knocked on the door and when he opened it he looked so young I felt like saying ‘are your mum and dad in’”.

He added that he is pleased that the focus on medical science by leading tech companies is only a good thing. “It’s nice to have not just their money, but also smart people’s attention to a problem.”

In a Q&A session at the alumni party, Professor Hardy described the work he is leading at UCL to understand the genetic causes for why dementia develops and how that could be disrupted. “We understand the underlying biology much better,” he told guests. “I took my statin this morning to ward off heart disease. The same idea is where we’re going with dementia.”

Following the discussion, alumni had the chance to explore UCL’s dementia research further, including playing the mobile game Sea Hero Quest, which collects data for dementia research on how the brain navigates much faster than ever before. Two minutes of playing the game produces data that would take five hours in a lab. With two million downloads so far, it has generated 913 decades of dementia research data. Find out more here: http://www.seaheroquest.com/en

See more photos of the evening on our flickr page, here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskFxxcbz