by Stefanie Rudrich
Team Leader of Marketing (Brain Products)
On June 6, 2019, the “UCL-CNT Early Career Investigator Award in Neuroimaging Techniques 2018” was presented to Dr. Alexandra Young. Alexandra received the award at the University College London’s (UCL) Center for Neuroimaging Techniques (CNT) “Annual Lecture on EEG” given this year by invited speaker, Gyorgy Buzsaki, MD, PhD (NYU Langone Health, USA).
Initiated about a decade ago, this annual award aims to acknowledge an exceptional contribution by a UCL student or staff member in the early stages of their career in the field of Neuroimaging. Brain Products and Brain Products UK are proud to sponsor the award, which includes a trophy, a certificate and a cheque for £1000.
Prof. Louis Lemieux, the UCL-CNT chair, presented this year’s winner, Dr. Alexandra Young, the award for her pioneering work in image-based disease progression modeling over the last five years.
Alexandra Young did her PhD at the Centre for Medical Image Computing in collaboration with UCL’s Dementia Research Centre. After completing her PhD, she was awarded a two-year EPSRC doctoral prize fellowship, which she has just finished. She was supervised by Prof. Daniel C. Alexander, who provided her official supporting statement for the award (excerpt below).
Supporting statement of Prof. Daniel C. Alexander (excerpt):
Alexandra reformulated the event-based model (EBM) enabling its application to sporadic disease. […] Her innovative solution, now well-cited, was published in Brain (IF>10) in 2014 with results providing the first data-driven support for hypothetical models of sporadic AD progression, such as Clifford Jack’s famous hypothesis in Lancet Neurology 2010. […]
Alexandra devised the Subtype and Stage Inference (SuStaIn) algorithm for identifying data-driven disease subtypes. The work was published in Nature Communications (IF>12) in late 2018 and attracted widespread attention from the scientific press and national newspapers giving it an AltMetrics score of over 130. She also gave an invited talk at OHBM 2018 on the work. SuStaIn is a highly original combination of unsupervised learning and disease progression modeling that uniquely disentangles phenotypic diversity from temporal change. Alexandra’s paper elegantly demonstrates viability using both simulations and a genetic frontotemporal dementia cohort in which genetically defined subtypes are known – the algorithm identifies them and characterizes their temporal progression without knowledge of the genetics. She goes on to use SuStaIn to reveal three distinct subgroups of AD and their temporal progression. This leads to new disease understanding and great potential in purifying cohorts for more focused clinical trials and precision treatment assignment.
Alexandra was the primary intellectual innovator in both these highly original and impactful ideas.
On behalf of the whole Brain Products and Brain Products UK team, congratulations Alexandra on winning this award. We wish you all the best for your future!