Formula One legend Sir Jackie Stewart pledges £1.5m to dementia research

Motor-racing legend Sir Jackie Stewart’s charity has awarded £1.5 million to the next generation of dementia researchers.

A three-time Formula 1 World Champion, Sir Jackie founded Race Against Dementia after Helen, his wife of 57 years, was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia.

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The charity works to raise money to fund breakthroughs in dementia research by applying the principles and expertise that have spurred incredible innovation in the fast-paced world of Formula 1.

Sir Jackie Stewart. Picture: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

The three Fellowships which will be created will harness the innovation of a new generation of scientists and provide them with funding, support and inspiration to radically accelerate dementia research.

Sir Jackie partnered with the UK’s leading dementia research charity, Alzheimer’s Research UK, to identify early-career scientists with the most transformational research ideas. The three new Race Against Dementia Fellows are Dr Cara Croft and Dr Christy Hung both from University College London and Dr Claire Durrant at the University of Edinburgh.

Dr Durrant is relocating from Cambridge to Edinburgh to become the Race Against Dementia Dyson Fellow. The Fellowship is named in recognition of inventor and entrepreneur Sir James Dyson who is supporting the initiative with funding through the James Dyson Foundation.

Dr Croft will be joining UCL from the University of Florida and will explore how genetic risk factors contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease and whether these genetic pathways could be targeted with future Alzheimer’s drugs. Dr Hung will investigate whether boosting a process called autophagy, a sort of cellular “garbage disposal” system, could present a new approach for treating the disease. The initiative provides Fellows with unique opportunities for collaboration with top dementia scientists as well as high-level mentoring from experts outside the field.

The Fellows will be supported by world-leading experts at Dyson Technology, and other sources of support will come from leaders within motor sport including experts from the Red Bull and McLaren F1 teams.

Sir Jackie, whose experience in Formula 1 spans six decades, said: “When my wife, Helen, was diagnosed with dementia I knew our lives wouldn’t be the same again.

“I’m fortunate to be in a position to provide Helen with the best possible care and that I’m part of a close-knit family that has been a crucial source of support throughout this difficult time. I know the situation is very different for many others affected by dementia.

“We urgently need to see new ways to treat or prevent dementia and the only way to do this is through research.”