London student wins prestigious research opportunity to help find a cure for devastating brain disea

UCL Student Sam Bryce-Smith has been awarded a prestigious PhD Studentship by the Motor Neurone Disease Association which aims to develop and nurture young researchers who wish to develop a career in MND research.  

‘The Motor Neurone Disease Association PhD Studentship’ has been fully funded by London Masons through The Masonic Charitable Foundation and will be based at the University College London (UCL). 
Aside from wanting to be a footballer as a child, Sam has always been fascinated by nature and how the body works. This fascination led to Sam studying further sciences at school and eventually graduating from the University of Sheffield with a First Class Honours degree in Biochemistry. Sam will start the PhD studentship in December under the joint supervision of Dr Pietro Fratta and Dr Maria Secrier.

Sam’s project will explore two proteins (TDP-43 and FUS) that are associated with MND and are involved in processing molecules called messenger RNA (the molecule that provides the information for the DNA to make the protein). Sam will see if disrupting the processing of messenger RNA also affects other genes and whether these changes contribute to the early stages of MND. This will hopefully improve our understanding of how the disease develops, which in turn may provide new targets to develop treatments that can stop MND in its tracks. 

Sam said: “The chance to contribute to our understanding of disease and provide opportunities for new potential treatments is something that really excites me. However, the chance to have a positive impact on people’s lives through my studies is what really drives me and I feel this studentship is a fantastic opportunity to do so.”

Linda Allen, Director of Fundraising at the MND Association said: “Support like this from London Masons and The Masonic Charitable Foundation means we can provide the opportunity for young researchers to work under the tutorship of leaders in the field of MND and help us to develop the MND research leaders of the future. Together we will make a difference to those living with and affected by this devastating disease.”

Tony Shields, Metropolitan Grand Lodge Charity Steward, said: “I offer Sam my warmest congratulations on winning this very prestigious PhD Studentship. Progress in his research could one day lead to a major breakthrough in stopping this terrible disease. This is another example of Freemasons supporting the London community. This donation follows on from a £2,500,000 donation to London Fire Brigade for two 65m aerial platforms and six rapid response vehicles.”