Brianne Kent, a researcher with the UBC Hospital Clinic for Alzheimer Disease and Related Disorders, is a 2016-2017 Banting Postdoctoral Fellow. Her research is focused on finding innovative treatments for Alzheimer's disease, a disease that's projected to affect 1.4 million Canadians by 2031. In particular, Brianne examines the role of sleep and circadian rhythms in the progression of Alzheimer's disease.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia, and unfortunately, there are no effective treatments for this devastating disease. The Alzheimer Society of Canada estimates that without new treatments 1.4 million Canadians will be living with dementia by 2031. This will not only be tragic for all of the patients and their families affected, but the rapid increase in the number of patients requiring care is projected to overwhelm our healthcare system. My research is focused on developing innovative treatments for AD by identifying and correcting for abnormalities in the body’s internal clock, with the goal of improving the quality of life of patients and their families, reducing the economic burden of AD, and preventing the devastating memory loss associated with this disease.
Why did you decide to pursue a postdoctoral fellowship at UBC? Did you consider other opportunities?
The Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health at UBC is an innovative centre with the goal of uniting research and patient care to change the way brain disorders are treated and studied. The innovative centre houses both basic research laboratories and clinics for brain disorders, creating an unmatched translational scientific environment. The mission to accelerate the translation of new discoveries into practical solutions is perfectly aligned with my ambitions.
What specifically attracted you to your research group?
Dr. Haakon Nygaard is an exceptional clinician-scientist who shares my passion for translational research that aims to bridge fundamental, preclinical research to the clinic. He was recruited from Yale University to be the inaugural recipient of the Charles Fipke endowed professorship in Alzheimer’s Research at UBC, and is now Director of the UBC Hospital Clinic for Alzheimer Disease and Related Disorders. Working with Dr. Nygaard has enabled me to conduct clinical research for the first time and design truly translational research projects.
What advice do you have for new postdoctoral fellows?
Create opportunities. Think about what questions excite you most and find collaborators who have the expertise and resources to help you answer your questions. Science is more fun and more effective when working with other researchers who bring different perspectives to a project.
What do you like to do for fun?
I love taking advantage of the natural beauty in Vancouver by hiking in the local mountains, going for runs along the seawall, and exploring the dense forests in Pacific Spirit Park that surrounds UBC.
What is the most enjoyable aspect of your postdoctoral fellowship?
The most enjoyable aspect of my postdoc is working with a diverse team of basic scientists and clinicians to approach our research questions from every angle. I am particularly interested in the role of sleep and circadian rhythms in the progression of Alzheimer's disease and I have been able to explore these processes in cell culture, animal models, and patients in the clinic. Our research looks at mechanisms from the molecular level all the way to behaviour, which is a unique opportunity that I am extremely grateful for.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced, or anticipate facing, in your career?
The biggest challenge will be finding a permanent research/academic position after my postdoc. There are so many incredibly talented researchers who struggle to get a faculty position so I anticipate that to be the biggest challenge in my career.
What does receiving this award mean for your career?
Receiving the Banting Fellowship has been an incredible honour. Not only has it enabled me to stay at UBC for two more years and see my projects to completion but to have my research recognized as valuable and worth investing in is extremely motivating.
What do you think the next step in your career will be?
I hope my next career step will be a faculty position. I am looking forward to leading my own research group.