New era of dementia research in UK places ‘new treatments front and centre’

Secretary of State backs Alzheimer’s Research UK for new strategy

Posted on 11th February 2013

The UK’s leading dementia research charity, Alzheimer’s Research UK, will launch a new research strategy dedicated to driving forward treatment development at a Westminster event on 12 February.

The forward-thinking strategy has won support from Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt, who described it as “an important step towards our ambition to make the UK a global leader in dementia research”.

The strategy will see the charity spearhead efforts to identify the earliest signs of disease and support the crucial early development of potential drug treatments. There will also be a new emphasis on joining academic research teams together with the pharmaceutical industry, to improve the transition of early stage results into practical pharmaceutical application.

Alzheimer’s Research UK has £20million of research commitments taking place at leading institutions in the UK today, and is the second largest charity-funder of dementia research in the world. Having built a reputation on funding the strongest dementia research from discovery science through to clinical studies, the charity is for the first time moving from an entirely reactive funding model, to a more strategic approach. With dementia recognised as one of the greatest medical challenges of our time, Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Strategy becomes the blueprint for a scientific solution.

The Strategy has four core components:

  1. Responsive and Targeted Funding: Alzheimer’s Research UK funding will continue to support the very best research from basic to clinical that improves our understanding of all the causes of dementia and improves diagnosis, prevention and treatment. For the first time, around a quarter of this funding will be focused on supporting targeted research that Alzheimer’s Research UK believes will answer key questions more quickly. The elements include crucial investigations into the relationship between the two culprit proteins involved in Alzheimer’s disease – amyloid and tau, as well as proteins that contribute to other dementias.
  2. New Drug Discovery: A new initiative will see Alzheimer’s Research UK provide funding for the first critical phases of new drug discovery to help find promising drug targets. This work will involve connecting our scientific teams with the pharmaceutical industry to speed up development. We will also be encouraging collaborations from other research funders in this area, joining together our funding with others’ to inspire greater efforts and success.
  3. Strategic Projects: Alzheimer’s Research UK has had success with strategic projects in the past, including the co-funding of the Brains for Dementia Research initiative. We will develop opportunities for further projects, including our ambitious longitudinal study to help detect the very earliest stages of disease.
  4. Partnerships: dementia research is a global effort, and as one of the world’s leading charity funders, we work in partnership both nationally and internationally where expertise can be pooled and more progress can be made through collaborative efforts.

Speaking ahead of the launch, Dr Eric Karran, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“No other condition strikes such fear and poses such a great threat to national health as dementia. Alzheimer’s and other diseases that cause dementia present an enormous personal, social and economic challenge, and research is our only hope of a solution. Alzheimer’s Research UK’s new Research Strategy places new treatments front and centre.

“We will bring academic research teams and the pharmaceutical industry together to speed up progress towards new treatments to benefit people with dementia today and tomorrow. We will fund unique and pioneering studies that will help us understand the very earliest signs of the diseases that cause dementia, and play to the UK’s strengths in basic science to exploit these findings. We have no drugs that are able to halt or prevent Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias and we urgently need a breakthrough.”

Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health said:

“It is no secret that dementia is one of the biggest challenges facing the UK today, and research will play a central part in helping to turn the tide of the number of people diagnosed with this terrible disease.

“The launch of today’s strategy is an important step towards our ambition to make the UK a global leader in dementia research. We have already doubled research funding to £66million, and recently announced details of twenty one pioneering dementia research projects selected to receive a share of £22million of Government funding.

“It is vital that we can translate the excellent work happening in our laboratories across the country into treatments that can help people live well with dementia today, whilst ultimately working towards finding a cure.”

Marianne Talbot, an Alzheimer’s Research UK supporter, will speak at the Strategy launch event about caring for her parents for 14 years, both of whom had dementia. Her mother, who had Alzheimer’s, came to live with Marianne for the last five years of her life.

She said:

“My darling mum died from Alzheimer’s in 2009 after a ten year struggle with this devastating disease, she was 89. She lived with me for five years and, without any training or preparation, I found myself caring for her as her mind fragmented. Watching her deteriorate was one of the saddest things I have ever done. Dementia can only be defeated through research, and I’m delighted to see Alzheimer’s Research UK unveiling a bold new strategy to tackle this challenge head-on.”

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