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01 March 2024

Dr Owen Gwydion James Receives Wellcome Early Career Award

The award supports his project in investigating RNA metabolism in neurodegenerative diseases

Dr Owen Gwydion James is in a white lab coat in the lab and smiling at the camera
Dr Owen Gwydion James

Dr Owen Gwydion James (Gwyd), a postdoctoral researcher at the UK Dementia Research Institute at King's College London, has received the Wellcome Early Career Award for his project "Understanding the modifiers of dysregulated RNA metabolism in ALS/FTD”. 

Dr James is a researcher in the lab of Professor Jernej Ule at the UK DRI at King's and Department of Basic and Clinical Neuroscience. Originally from Cardiff, he obtained his BSc at Newcastle University and his Master’s and PhD at the University of Edinburgh.

His research background is in advanced stem cell modelling, phenotypic drug discovery, and computational biology. He is currently working to model dysregulated RNA processing events at early stages of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD)—two neurodegenerative diseases for which there are no cures.

His project will look at RNA binding proteins (RBPs), which bind to RNAs to perform specialised functions that regulate gene expression. Specifically, he will study the interplay between mutated RBPs and RNA in neurodegenerative disease and how modifying these interactions may prevent RNA processing errors.

Many RBPs contribute to the onset and pathology of ALS/FTD through either disease-causing mutations or their abnormal accumulation into cytoplasmic aggregates. The reduced ability of RBPs to bind their target RNAs leads to damaging consequences for neuronal function.

Additional mutations in other ‘modifier‘ genes have been shown to suppress or enhance disease symptoms and augment cellular pathology. This project will investigate the role of genetic modifiers in rescuing RNA processing defects and the mechanisms underlying this process.

I am delighted to receive the Early-Career Award from Wellcome, which presents an exciting opportunity to explore how genetic modifiers influence ribonucleoprotein assembly and RNA dysregulation in ALS/FTD and to reveal potential therapeutic targets for these devastating conditions.”

Dr Owen Gwydion James

Dr James' award starts in February 2024. His project is funded for 5 years.

The Wellcome Early Career Award provides funding for early-career researchers from any discipline who are ready to develop their research identity. The successful awardees are chosen for their innovative projects and potential to deliver shifts in understanding that could improve human life, health and well-being. It is hoped that the awardees will be ready to lead their independent research programme upon completion of the award.

I am pleased that Gwyd has received the Wellcome ECA. He is contributing key expertise to our mission of UK DRI at King's - to understand the fundamental biological processes involved in dementia at a molecular and multi-cellular level. I am looking forward to learning what he finds out through this project.”

Professor Jernej Ule, Director of the UK DRI at King's and Van Geest Professor of Neurodegeneration Research