UCL Institute of Healthcare Engineering


The Wolfson Foundation Visit UCL to celebrate the Pioneering Neuroscience Research Made Possible

17 January 2018

UCL recently celebrated the far-reaching impact of a £20 million grant from The Wolfson Foundation to support dementia research with a visit in May 2017 by staff and trustees of Foundation.

The visit was made to the Leonard Wolfson Experimental Neurology Centre. The grant was awarded in December 2011, recognising UCL’s status as a world-leader in neuroscience research. It is the largest award that the Wolfson Foundation has ever made, as well as one of the largest philanthropic donations that UCL has received in its history. The huge potential of such an award has been transformative for UCL’s neuroscience research, enabling cutting-edge work in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s.

The Leonard Wolfson Experimental Neurology Centre was set up with this award, creating the UK’s only clinical research facility dedicated to experimental medicine in neurodegeneration. The Centre is based at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery (NHNN), the partner hospital of the UCL Institute of Neurology. In addition to the clinical research facility, the award has made funding possible for an Imaging Research Team, Biomarker Research Group and Leonard Wolfson Training Programme in Neurodegeneration. The doctoral training scheme provides an opportunity for researchers to work under the supervision of world-renowned clinicians and basic scientists, with a section of this funding allocated specifically for engineering graduates to pursue research through the Centre for Doctoral Training in Medical Imaging. It is hoped that these participants in the early stages of their career will then go on to work at the leading-edge of neurodegeneration research, and ultimately advance our understanding and treatment of neurodegenerative disease. 

The Translational Imaging Group (TIG) have been at the forefront of much of this pioneering dementia research, made possible through the Wolfson Foundation’s generous grant. TIG supports the work of the LWENC by developing novel imaging algorithms, biomarkers and computer modelling techniques which are used to improve the accuracy of clinical neuroimaging. These techniques enable us to create complex, patient-specific 3D models from 2D MRI scans to aid diagnosis, track disease progression and test new therapies. Researchers are also working on using 3D printing methods to create patient-specific models which can be used as phantoms to test and evaluate imaging algorithms and speed up the bench-to-bedside process.

3D print brain

Improved medical imaging techniques greatly enhance the accuracy and likelihood of early diagnosis of dementia. The potential benefit for patients from this is vast, as opening up an earlier window to patients for diagnosis and treatment has a crucial impact in slowing down and minimising the loss of cognitive and neurological functions. The earlier that treatment is able to begin for patients, the greater this effect. Alongside this work, The Leonard Wolfson Experimental Neurology Centre is also pushing ways to speed up the development and validation of new, innovative treatments. 

The Wolfson Foundation have a long history of philanthropic engagement with UCL and have been an integral supporter of the Faculty of Engineering for many years. Previous to the £20 million grant in 2011, they made a significant contribution towards opening the Malet Place Engineering Building in October 2005, providing new offices, laboratory and specialist units to further research and teaching. The Foundation was established in 1955 by Leonard Wolfson and his parents, Sir Isaac and Lady Edith Wolfson, and it has since supported and promoted excellence in the fields of science, health, education and the arts & humanities by funding some 10,000 projects totalling £1.7 billion across the UK. 

We look forward to following the Leonard Wolfson Experimental Neurology Centre’s pioneering research and innovations made possible by this award.