The Bundy Academy’s 2022 major prize amounting to SEK 3 million was awarded yesterday to Sebastian Palmqvist, associate professor of Clinical Memory Research at Lund University and senior physician at the Memory Clinic at Skåne University Hospital, for his research on improved diagnostics of Alzheimer’s disease.
I want more patients with cognitive diseases to be detected at an earlier stage of the progression of the disease, to be correctly diagnosed and thus have the possibility to receive better treatment.
Sebastian Palmqvist’s research focuses on memory problems and how healthcare can be better able to correctly diagnose and thus be in a position to provide better treatment for patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, for example. Dementia diseases such as Alzheimer’s affect what is known as cognition, i.e. our memory and ability to perceive and understand the world around us.
“I would like to see that more patients with cognitive diseases are detected earlier in the development of the disease in a patient, receive a correct diagnosis and thus be able to receive better treatment,” comments Sebastian Palmqvist, Associate Professor at Lund University.
He says that it is currently a difficult task for those in primary care to diagnose the disease at an early stage and that between 50-70% of such patients situation are not detected or correctly diagnosed.
Large clinical study
Sebastian Palmqvist is currently leading a large clinical study involving several primary outpatient healthcare centres. The objective here is to investigate how the diagnosis process can be made more accurate. The scientific researchers are combining new memory tests with blood analysis of what is known as phosphorylated tau (P-tau), which reflects whether the patient has an accumulation of beta-amyloid and tau, the substances that accumulate in the brain and characterise the disease. An earlier pilot study suggests that this specific blood test, which the medical researchers are now evaluating and verifying, has a high diagnostic potential.
This is a significant amount of prize money, which is absolutely essential for us to be able to conduct this memory study in the primary care.
Sebastian Palmqvist is the lead author of an article in JAMA that had a major national and international breakthrough in 2020. Together with co-author Oskar Hansson at Lund University and several other researchers from around the world, the levels of P-tau in blood were surveyed and measured in several different cohorts. By comparing the levels of P-tau between people with and without Alzheimer’s disease, they found that P-tau was about 7-10 times higher in the Alzheimer’s group. Levels might start to rise before symptoms develop for up to 20 years.
Algorithm predicts Alzheimer’s disease
Last year, the team published a follow-up article in Nature Medicine, in which they developed an algorithm that can assist in predicting who is at increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. This algorithm is now being trialled at approx. 20 primary outpatient healthcare centres in Skåne as part of a research study.
“Even if there are no cures today, it is important to be able to make the right diagnosis so that these patients receive the correct symptom-relieving treatment and care, in anticipation of the time when more people will be able to be offered disease-alleviating treatment,” explains Sebastian Palmqvist.
Sebastian Palmqvist was the first recipient of Bundy’s small prize when it was first awarded in 2014, and now he has been awarded the major prize.
“It’s really fantastic! This is a significant amount of prize money, which is absolutely essential for us to be able to conduct this memory study in the primary care. So it’s important both for me and for the research – and therefore the patients,” says Sebastian Palmqvist.