As the Neuroscience Team Leader at MAC Clinical Research; an honorary researcher at Lancaster University and a community event organiser, Dr Penny Foulds explains why Join Dementia Research is central to what she does.

Personal experience

“I have personal experience of dementia in my family” explains Penny, “my grandparents developed Alzheimer’s disease and it was this that spurred me on to search for answers and do whatever I could to help.”

After completing her PhD in Biological Sciences at Lancaster, Penny went on to pursue an academic career researching biomarkers in neurodegenerative disorders, such as Parkinson’s and forms of dementia.

Several years ago, she moved into the commercial sector but still retains her honorary role at the University.

“Working in both academic research and for a clinical research organisation has enabled me to learn about every aspect of the drug development process. And, of course, clinical trials are pivotal to the success of any new medication. Research fails if there is a lack of recruitment, so we rely on registries like Join Dementia Research.

“Because Join Dementia Research matches volunteers to studies they are eligible for, the process is made very efficient and works really well for volunteers and researchers alike.”

Developing potential treatments

Through her work at MAC Clinical Research, Penny is currently working on a Phase 2b/3 study investigating oral Anavex 2-73 (blarcamesine) in people with early Alzheimer’s disease  – a drug that has the potential to slow down the progression of the condition. 

Penny explains:

“Nearly half of the people on this study have been recruited through Join Dementia Research. They are joining hundreds of volunteers from around the world to test the efficacy of Anavex 2-73 for those with mild Alzheimer’s. It is incredible to think that these people could be part of the next big breakthrough in dementia treatment.”

Dr Penny Foulds – Dementia researcher, MAC Clinical Research

Tell us about your personal experience of dementia…
My grandparents were both diagnosed with dementia just a few months apart. So I understand the impact that this devastating disease has on family and carers.

Raising awareness
I have been a champion of Join Dementia Research for many, many years, even before I was part of a clinical research organisation. I think that it is very important that everybody who lives with a diagnosis is offered the opportunity to get involved in research and Join Dementia Research is the best way forward.

Using Join Dementia Research for recruitment
I used Join Dementia Research to recruit to the last Alzheimer’s study that we did at MAC Clinical Research and without the access to that register, we would not have been able to recruit, very well for it. In fact, nearly half the people that we recruited onto that Alzheimer’s study were from Join Dementia Research.

Never miss an opportunity
When I started my work in the community, I always made sure that when I was doing a talk or presenting at a group, I always talked about Join Dementia Research because if people are interested in finding out about what research is going on in their local area, this is really the best way to find out about what’s going on and for you to access a way to be involved.

Developed in partnership:
NIHR | National Institute for Health and Care Research
Alzheimer Scotland | Action on Dementia
Alzheimer’s Research UK
Alzheimer’s Society | United Against Dementia


Community support

When Penny is not in a clinic setting, she enjoys contributing to dementia support networks in the community.

She says:

“I helped set up the Lancaster Freshers Young Onset Cafe, for people of working age who are diagnosed with a neurological condition and also ‘Dementia Hubs’ in Lancaster, Morecambe and the Fylde Coast for people living with dementia and other neurodegenerative conditions.  

“As well as providing the chance to speak to professionals such as solicitors, mobility specialists and nurses, these informal get-togethers are an opportunity for people to meet others in the same situation and share experiences.”

Never one to miss an opportunity, Penny also uses these forums to tell people about Join Dementia Research “I always have a pile of leaflets in my car!” she says.

Get involved

If you’re a researcher and inspired by Penny’s story, find out more about how you can get involved.