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Dr David Dawbarn, 1957-2010

30 March 2010

David Dawbarn, Reader in Medicine in the Molecular Neurobiology Unit in the Henry Wellcome Laboratories for Integrative Neuroscience and Endocrinology, died earlier this year.

David was not only an internationally acclaimed neuroscientist but also a fine individual who is greatly missed.

David showed early promise, which was fulfilled by his brilliant academic and scientific career. After training in pharmacology at the University of Bath, he obtained a PhD in pharmacology and neurochemistry from the University of Bristol before moving to a Wellcome Fellowship at the MRC Neuropharmacology Unit in Cambridge. He returned to Bristol in 1985, after working on Parkinson’s disease research as a Hereditary Disease Foundation Fellow, also in Cambridge. 

David joined us in Bristol as a ‘new blood’ lecturer, which was a Medical Research Council initiative to bring promising new scientists into developing departments to increase critical mass and support the development of important new directions in medical research. His role was to take forward research into our understanding of the relevance of neurotrophic proteins in Alzheimer’s disease. David established a research group that soon gained an international reputation, and in 1993 he was appointed to the post of Reader in Medicine.

He contributed major advances to our understanding of the molecular interactions between the neurotrophins and their receptors, especially nerve growth factor, as well as their role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Very importantly, he and his group also made significant advances in designing small molecules as potential therapeutic agents not only for Alzheimer’s disease, but also for the treatment of pain and asthma. 

The quality of his contributions gained him the L and D Blond Award in 1986 for Innovative Research, the Sandoz Foundation Prize for Exceptional Gerontological Research in 1988, and the EUREKA prize for Research & Technology in 2003. His book, edited with Dr Shelley Allen, on the neurobiology of Alzheimer’s disease, was extremely successful and is currently in its third edition.

David was an inspiring teacher and postgraduate supervisor, and took great pleasure in his role as Director of Postgraduate Studies within LINE. Many of those who benefited from working with him as postgraduate students now hold senior positions in academia and industry. They all speak very highly of his influence on their early scientific development and also of his exceptional qualities. His death is a great loss to science, and also to his family, friends and colleagues, especially to his partner Marion and daughter Mireia. 

Gordon K Wilcock

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