By Dr Gaël Chételat project coordinator, Silver Santé Study
(Posted 03 December 2021)
I am very honoured to have been awarded the MARIE-PAULE BURRUS prize at this year’s French Foundation for Medical Research (FRM) ceremony. When I received the email informing me that I was the winner of the prize, I first thought it was spam; then I thought that maybe it was a call encouraging me to apply for the prize; but reading the email again, there was no ambiguity that the prize was already attributed to me. I then thought that maybe it was something I had applied for a long time ago and didn’t remember; so, I looked in my files – but couldn’t find any trace of this award application except in my memory.
It was even more rewarding that it came as a total surprise because, in contrast to most prizes, you don’t have to apply for this one: some benevolent expert nominates you (I think I know the name of the good fairy who proposed my name and I am very grateful to her), and then a jury composed of members from the scientific committee of the FRM selects the winners amongst the nominees. Yves Burrus created this prize in honour of his wife who was living with a neurodegenerative disease.
This prize comes as a very valuable and appreciated acknowledgement of all the work we have carried out over nearly 25 years with my INSERM team in Caen, together with the larger group composed of the Silver Santé Study team over the last 6 years, focused on Alzheimer’s disease, neurodegenerative diseases, and normal ageing. The main goals of the studies are to better understand Alzheimer’s disease, improve diagnosis, but also, importantly, drive prevention.
The Silver Santé Study is focused on prevention. The study aims at evaluating the impact of our lifestyles and of non-pharmacological interventions such as mental training through meditation or English learning, on the well-being and mental health of seniors. Through these studies, we highlighted specific pathological processes involved in Alzheimer’s disease, developed tools to detect the first signs of the disease and distinguish them from normal ageing. We also highlighted relevant lifestyle factors to improve our health and well-being, to better maintain our cognitive functioning with age, and preserve brain health.
All this work would not have been possible without the generous contributions of funds such as those received from the French Foundation for Medical Research as well as the core funding from the European Union Horizon 2020 programme. Thanks must go to members of my team, to whom I am extremely grateful for their overwhelming support and commitment, as well as the Silver Santé Study group for their significant work and research into the mental health and well-being of the ageing population. I am fully aware of how lucky I am to work with you all!