Spotlight on... Dr Francesca Magrinelli

Dr Francesca Magrinelli
Dr Francesca Magrinelli
This week, to mark World Parkinson’s Day, we catch up with Dr Francesca Magrinelli from the UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology. Francesca tells us about her research on the genetics of rare movement disorders and neurodegeneration, including early onset Parkinson’s Disease.

What is your role and what does it involve?

I am currently the MJFF Edmond J. Safra Clinical Research Fellow in Movement Disorders at the UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology.

I have a hybrid clinical and research role. I am a clinical fellow in Movement Disorder and Neurogenetics at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery. As a postdoctoral researcher, I’m working in Professor Henry Houlden’s Neurogenetics lab, mainly focusing on new genetics of rare movement disorders and neurodegeneration.

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?

After a short clinical observership in 2017, I came back to UCL in 2019 during the international mobility period of my PhD at the University of Verona, Italy, and I started as a clinical research fellow. I started my post as an Edmond J. Safra Fellow in September 2021.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

In terms of clinical experience, what I’m most proud of are the level of independence I have gained in assessing tertiary referrals for complex movement disorder cases; the level of clinical exposure I can experience at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery; and how all the research I’m doing translates into final diagnosis and active care for patients.

In terms of research, I’m most proud of all the national and international collaborations I’ve set over these years and some novel genetics findings - in particular, a new Parkinson’s disease gene I’m studying now.

Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list

I’m mainly working on validating a novel candidate gene for early onset Parkinson’s disease. I’m working both in the genetic lab and with functional tests to prove that there is a causal association between this genetic finding and symptoms of juvenile Parkinson’s disease in five families which I identified all over the world. Another project is clarifying the genetic underpinnings of familial chin tremor (i.e., hereditary geniospasm), which has been a genetic mystery for decades.

What is your favourite song, film and novel?

Song: Breathe by Midge Ure

Film: Forrest Gump

Novel: One, No One and One Hundred Thousand by Luigi Pirandello.

What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?

"What do you call a pony with a cough? A little horse."

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

Rita Levi-Montalcini, Martin Luther King Jr and Dante Alighieri.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I would advise not to be worried or concerned about dreaming big because whenever you dream big, your dreams are moving towards you.

What would it surprise people to know about you?

The first impression of myself is that of a very strong and determined person, but I’m actually extremely sensitive. This is something which has sometimes disoriented people around me.

What is your favourite place?  

Well, my favourite place is home with my family in Italy. But I don’t think it’s a physical place - it’s really the familial environment and closeness to my beloved ones.
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