Alzheimer's Research UK has welcomed an increase in Government funding of dementia research of nearly a third (31%) in 2010/11. New figures show that combined spending across the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and the Medical Research Council (MRC) was £37.1m in 2010/11, compared to £28.3m the prior year.
In a response to parliamentary questions on dementia research funding, Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills David Willets also outlined how the UK Biobank cohort would be harnessed to aid dementia research. He described a brain scan pilot study that would involve up to 8,000 volunteers, rolling out to up to 100,000 if successful. Working with such a large population could reveal crucial data around early brain changes that precede dementia.
Alongside new commitments from the Prime Minister's Dementia Challenge made in March to double dementia research funding by 2014/15, it marks a new trend in increased spending to combat the UK's greatest medical challenge.
Alzheimer's Research UK has also increased its funding of UK dementia research in 2011/12 by 13% on the prior year, with over £5.1m new projects funded, contributing to total research commitments of over £18million. This cements that charity's position as the largest charitable funder of dementia research in the UK. However, dementia remains significantly under-funded compared with other major diseases. Dementia costs the UK economy £23 billion per year, more than the cost of cancer and heart disease combined, yet more than 12 times more is spent on cancer research than dementia.
Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive of Alzheimer's Research UK, said:
"We are beginning to take charge of the dementia challenge, with increased funding helping to attract new experts into the research field, accelerate our progress, and bring real hope to thousands of lives blighted by dementia. We warmly welcome increased funding from government for which we've long been campaigning. We cannot yet say, given the enormous societal and economic burden of dementia, that research funding matches the scale of the challenge, but the outlook is better than ever. As numbers living with dementia continue to spiral towards one million, we must continue to invest in research as our only hope of an answer."
Care Services Minister Paul Burstow said:
“This shows that the tide is beginning to turn on funding for dementia research. In the PM Challenge, we spelt out our commitments, which include doubling funding and setting up a Champion Group to bring together the brightest minds in dementia research.
"It is fantastic that Alzheimer’s Research UK has increased its funding too. Charities have a key role to play in the advancement of good quality research and working together we can make more of an impact for people living with dementia now and in the future.”
Julian Huppert MP, who tabled the questions, said:
“This is positive. The Government is delivering on its pledge to tackle the dementia crisis by increasing funds for dementia research. Now is the time to capitalise on every resource we have to maximise efforts to defeat dementia. We must be ambitious and give our scientists all the backing they need to provide hope for people living with this awful condition.”