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Our new Chief Scientific Officer

Tim Parry

Dr David Reynolds joins Alzheimer’s Research UK in June as our new Chief Scientific Officer. What experience does David bring to the charity and how does he view the task ahead? We spoke to David as he takes up his new role.

David-Reynolds

It was an unusual and slightly macabre moment of inspiration as a schoolboy that set David Reynolds on a career path that has seen him work to the highest level on the development of new medicines for nearly twenty years.

When a primary school geography teacher showed the young David a red spot, little bigger than a pinhead, on a page in a school notebook and explained how this minute amount of cyanide could be deadly, it piqued a lifelong fascination around how substances could have such a profound effect on the human body. “It fascinated me how something so small could have a potent effect – good or bad!” he explains, “so I was always interested in the science behind medicines.”

Fortunately, David took this enthusiasm for both chemistry and biology into the field of drug development, and coupled it with similarly strongly-held interest in neuroscience and the brain, which he considered to be “one of the last bastions of the body that we really had limited understanding about and in which we really needed to make advances.”

Following reading Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge, David began to specialise in pharmacology and later pursued neuroscience through his PhD. In an interesting circumstance that echoes ARUK’s own approach to bringing academia and industry closer together, David describes how he was “fortunate during his PhD to share a building housing Glaxo’s Institute of Applied Pharmacology. It gave me an early appreciation of how industry worked in relation to academia and the challenges that are unique to both worlds”.

After completing his academic studies, David was motivated to move into industry and has always held a “keen eye on the end game, which is to produce a new medicine”. Initially working for Merck in its Harlow centre in Essex, he spent over seven years in the field of psychiatric and neurological disorders, specialising in a neurostransmitter linked to anxiety, epilepsy and pain, as well work on Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. He laments a time in the industry “that was very siloed, where early research scientists handed their findings over to someone who did clinical research, who then handed their output to someone who dealt with patients and we didn’t have much to do with each other.”

david-reynolds-portraitFollowing his time with Merck, David took roles that increasingly emphasised his leadership qualities at Lundbeck in Copenhagen and Pfizer’s R&D site in Sandwich, in Kent. He then moved into a research site leadership role including early clinical development for Pfizer based in Cambridge, ironically on the same science park as Alzheimer’s Research UK, which likely saw him unwittingly eating lunch next to his future colleagues at the park café. This period cemented his appreciation of “how an idea can move through the process towards becoming an effective drug and all the disciplines that play a role in that.”

His role in Cambridge saw David not only working on the internal projects but also seeking new innovations across the globe externally that would accelerate progress in the fields of pain research and neuroscience and improve collaboration within Pfizer. Playing a big role as an advocate for partnership working, David explains simply that “you can’t have all the good ideas yourself, and you can’t work on all the good ideas, so looking beyond our labs helped us identify other groups who had complementary ideas and different approaches and who were doing it well.”

If all this sounds familiar, it should. Alzheimer’s Research UK’s strategy in the past few years has seen us increasingly looking around the world for new approaches to tackling dementia and partnering with likeminded innovators. Initiatives like the Dementia Consortium and the ARUK Drug Discovery Alliance have pioneered collaborative approaches to research that unite academy, industry and biotech in a common desire to make better and swifter progress towards the next treatment.

This isn’t lost on David. “All of the experience I’ve gained will help me plan and guide ARUK’s research initiatives towards delivering that new treatment” he explains. And how does he feel about progress towards that goal right now? “I take heart from the fact our understanding of the diseases behind dementia has advanced to the point that we are now starting to properly test long-held ideas in the clinic and see if they can help patients. But the potential for prevention and the prospect for both early stage disease-modifying treatments and later stage symptomatic treatments in dementia are particularly exciting and provide real hope for changing lives”.

David gives the impression of feeling liberated as he joins Alzheimer’s Research UK. From a long career of working in industry where sometimes promising science is lost when the numbers can’t be made to add up, ARUK’s singular focus and the backing of its supporters means, as he puts it, “we can pursue the best ideas and make the kind of progress that can impact on people’s lives no matter what.”

5 Responses to Our new Chief Scientific Officer

  1. Mark Geiger 23 November 2016 at 4:15 pm #

    Congratulations to Dr. David Reynolds! I was very encouraged to read your quotes surrounding “different approaches” to treat Alzheimer’s Disease. My question is, we have medical devices to help treat PD, Cancer, Diabetes, Stroke, etc. but not AD….why is that? So many drug failures, really bad failures I might add, and still we are all made to believe that the next drug is right around the corner. What if it’s not? What if there is something else? I strongly believe, and I have skin in the game to that end, that there is promise in the work out of the Univ of Rochester with replicating their “Glymphatic System” (Xie et al, 2010) and CSF filtration. Medical Devices exist today that can perform this function yet nobody is studying it. I would love to discuss my plan to get things moving on the device front if you are interested. Best Regards, Mark

    • ARUK Blog Editor
      ARUK Blog Editor 28 November 2016 at 3:17 pm #

      Hello Mark, thanks for raising the potential for devices to be effective in providing treatment for people living with dementia. You are right that devices such as deep brain stimulators for Parkinson’s Disease or insulin pumps for diabetes have provided a valuable treatment option for many patients. If you think you have a device that could stimulate glymphatic clearance then it would be useful to hear more about that and your research may be eligible for one of our grant funding schemes. Please provide us with some more information at research@alzheimersresearchuk.org.

  2. Wilma Brennan 21 September 2017 at 8:05 am #

    Good morning David,
    I was interested in your interview on the news today and the idea that your GP record could hold the answer to discovering if you could succumb to dementia. The social isolation really struck home as both my parents had dementia and lived isolated lives, they split in their forties.
    I’m sure like others l rarely visit my GP and have had a different GP from both my parents for over 50 years.
    Like my parents l am also happy being by myself and after listening to you I think I need to get myself motivated to mix more.
    Thanks

  3. Harry Watts 10 May 2018 at 9:52 am #

    Mr Harry Watts . Ex Owner of a Care -Home designated in the Oxfordshire Optima- research programe studying Alzheimer’s.

    I learned by asking questions about Alzheimer’s that when an autopsy was conducted on people
    that died of Alzheimer’s, there was residual amounts of Aluminium found within the Brain?

    I was born in 1950 and at the earliest age recall the Lead poisoning affecting all parts of our society, and therefore am very concerned about the presence of another metal Aluminium, used extensively in our modern society, from pots and pans- cooking to medication wrappings, foods and drinks, our society is indeed saturated with Aluminium, which may be the root cause in the increase of Alzheimer’s ?

    • Harry Watts 10 May 2018 at 9:58 am #

      i welcome my comment being published, as a Father & Grandfather, I am only concerned about all our society being looked after as best as possible, and the truth needs to come out, as people are getting Alzheimer’s younger than ever, and whilst I have no scientific skills, the general concern for the presence of Aluminium within the brain is rather worrying!

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