A year of progress, thanks to you

Here at Alzheimer’s Research UK, we’ve set out a clear mission to bring about the first life-changing treatment for dementia. We’re relentless in our pursuit of that mission, and as we seek out every opportunity to take us towards this goal, it’s natural that we spend much of our time looking to the future. But for this work to be successful, it’s just as important to take stock of where we’ve come from, and the progress that’s been made so far.

The publication of our Annual Review and accounts offers an opportunity to do just that – and today, thanks to you, we’re reflecting on an incredible year that’s seen unprecedented growth and allowed us to put more than ever towards pioneering research.

In 2016/17 we saw more people than ever joining the fightback against dementia, translating into a staggering 44% rise in donations. This amazing increase in support from people like you meant we were able to put a record £21.6m towards research, including £7m earmarked for our long-term commitments to the landmark UK Dementia Research Institute – the country’s largest endeavour in dementia research – as well as funding for 88 new projects, and ongoing support for important strategic initiatives such as our Drug Discovery Alliance.

We don’t just fund research: we also work to unite the people and organisations who can speed up progress in dementia research, and to challenge misconceptions about dementia, galvanising a movement across society that will ultimately be vital to ending the fear, harm and heartbreak of the condition. And thanks to you, we’re making strides forward.

Over the past year our scientists have made over 100 new discoveries that have advanced our understanding of dementia, including key changes in the brain that occur early in Alzheimer’s disease, and two new genes that affect our risk of the disease. Researchers at our Drug Discovery Alliance explored 17 potential new treatments for dementia, with eight projects moving forward to the next stage of research. Together, this research is paving the way for improved diagnostic tests, better ways to reduce the risk of dementia and ultimately, much-needed new treatments for this devastating condition.

At the same time, our network of Campaigners continued to grow. This group played an important part in helping us to secure pledges on dementia research in the run-up to last year’s General Election, and we now have 1,300 Campaigners who are holding government to account on its promises to tackle dementia. We were able to put more than 180,000 health information leaflets into people’s hands, providing up-to-date, reliable information about dementia, and offered information and reassurance to 5,000 people who contacted our Dementia Research Infoline. And with your help, we shone a spotlight on dementia through awareness campaigns such as Santa Forgot, helping spread the message the dementia can be defeated through research.

We absolutely believe in that message, and it’s encouraging to see how many people agree with us. We can only continue making progress with your support, so the increasing numbers of people joining the fightback over the past year gives us hope for the future. But we know, too, that this growing number of people is also a reflection of the growing impact of dementia across the country. One in three of us have first-hand experience of the heartbreak dementia can bring, so to many of us, this fight is personal – and it’s far from over. There’s much still to do if we’re to bring about the first life-changing treatment for dementia, but with you alongside us, we know we can get there.

View the progress we’re making with your support

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About the author

Hilary Evans

Hilary is Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, which is a charity working at a global level towards a world where people are free from the fear, harm and heartbreak of dementia. The organisation’s aim is to raise awareness of the diseases that cause dementia, to increase dementia research funding and improve the environment for dementia scientists in the UK and internationally.