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Alan’s story – Guest post by Alan Palmer

In this guest post, scientist and entrepreneur Alan Palmer talks about his career studying the human brain and its various disorders along with the value of gifts in Wills.

Alan Palmer smiles while surrounded by a group of people talking to him

Alan Palmer is an internationally recognised neuroscientist and biotech entrepreneur. His career has focussed on disorders of the brain, and he has a passion for translating neuroscience knowledge into effective therapies. 

As a trustee of the Brain Tumour Charity, Alan offers invaluable expertise in the fields of neuroscience and medicines research and has also made the incredible decision to leave a gift in his Will to The Charity.

Read Alan’s journey

A career dedicated to the study of the brain and its various disorders

I first developed an interest in the brain whilst at school. I later studied for an MSc in Neurochemistry at the Institute of Psychiatry in London and then a PhD on the neurochemistry of Alzheimer’s disease at the Institute of Neurology, also in London.

With this, I immersed myself in the complexities of the brain’s intricate structure and its fascinating functions – a captivating journey.

As I delved deeper into the study of the biological basis of neurological disorders, a profound sense of hope for discovering ground-breaking treatments was ignited.

This dynamic synergy between advancing scientific knowledge and medical advancements encapsulates the very essence of translational neuroscience. This became my unwavering guiding star, shaping the trajectory of my career.

While holding a faculty position at the University of Pittsburgh, I played a pivotal role in founding one of the most prominent brain trauma research centres in the United States. We translated our preclinical data showing the benefit of therapeutic hypothermia into a pioneering clinical trial.

Our research demonstrated that cooling the brain to 32°C for 24 hours significantly enhances the prognosis for individuals with severe head injuries. This approach has since become a standard practice to minimize trauma-related brain damage, leading to improved patient outcomes.

I returned to the UK in 1994, to join the CNS drug discovery team at Wyeth Research.  However, because of a corporate merger, my time there was brief. So, alongside Professor Sir Chris Evans and four colleagues from Wyeth, I founded the UK’s first neuroscience start-up, Cerebrus. It not only secured an impressive £27 million in funding but also underwent rapid expansion, boasting a workforce of over 100 employees.  Following a merger with another biotech, the company listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1999 as ‘Vernalis’.

While at Cerebrus/Vernalis, I led a major project to discover novel sodium channel blockers as neuroprotective agents for stroke and other neurological disorders.

In addition to The Brain Tumour Charity, I’m also a Trustee of One Nucleus, the British Neuroscience Association, and the Cancer Awareness Trust. I’m a visiting Professor at the University of Reading and a co-founder and Chief Executive of Elixa MediScience. Elixa is developing innovative new medicines to slow the progression of disability associated with neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease.

Joining The Brain Tumour Charity

I applied to become the first Life Science Trustee at The Brain Tumour Charity in 2016 as I was so impressed by the Charity, particularly its clear and ambitious goal of doubling the survival time and halving the harm of living with a brain tumour.

Knowledge of neuroscience and cancer is like a treasure, but its value is unlocked only when it’s put into action. I feel that I can contribute to the unlocking of the knowledge we have about brain tumours by helping the Charity deliver improvements in the management and treatment of people with brain tumours. 

Brain tumours have tragically claimed the lives of not only a cherished friend but also the highly esteemed Head of the Department of Neurochemistry at the Institute of Neurology (where I worked for seven years), Professor Alan Davison.

Making a difference with a gift in his Will

I have included The Brain Tumour Charity in my Will which is something I believe can make a huge difference. By leaving a charitable gift to a well-run medical charity, I am contributing to the health and well-being of people living with a brain tumour, thus creating a lasting legacy. 

Charitable bequests can also benefit all parties, as they are tax efficient since it can eliminate or reduce the Inheritance Tax payable on an estate. Thus, for example, leaving at least 10% of my estate to charity, the Inheritance Tax rate on the rest of my estate will be reduced from 40% to 36%.

Understanding that this will have a positive impact on others brings personal fulfilment and a deep sense of purpose. I hope that my decision to include a charitable bequest to The Brain Tumour Charity in my Will might serve as inspiration for others to consider a similar gesture.

Keeping your Will up to date, ideally with the assistance of a solicitor, is very important. Having a Will in place helps protect loved ones, saves on inheritance tax, and hopefully heads off family disputes about how an estate should be divided. Research indicates that 57% of UK adults don’t have a Will, a worrisome statistic given the expected transfer of over £5 trillion between generations over the next three decades.

The Charity’s holistic and dynamic strategy to conquer the challenges posed by brain tumours is a powerful way forward. It encompasses the synergy of ground-breaking research, cutting-edge medical treatments, technological innovations, cooperative efforts, and unwavering community support.

I envision a brighter future where The Brain Tumour Charity thrives with the support of legacy gifts in Wills. With this crucial backing, we can propel the Charity towards its ambitious mission: to double the time people survive with a brain tumour while significantly reducing the suffering it inflicts upon them. Together, we can make this hopeful vision a reality.