A Network of researchers joining forces to defeat dementia

This week sees a £1.2 million investment in the Alzheimer’s Research UK Research Network, a unique initiative in the dementia research field to link scientists throughout the country. But why is collaborative research so important to reach our goal to defeat dementia?

We will not defeat dementia by working in isolation.

Who is in the Research Network?

The Alzheimer’s Research UK Research Network is open to dementia researchers working in institutions throughout the country; from the South Coast to Scotland and everywhere in between. First established in 1998 with just eight Centres, the Research Network has gone from strength to strength. It now has over 700 members across 15 Centres of scientific excellence. This year, two new Centres have been formed; one in the South West and one at Imperial College London. We look forward to these two new Centres establishing themselves and recruiting researchers to the dementia research field. Find out about your nearest Network Centre.


Many heads are better than one

Through collaboration our Research Network can join up the dots in one another’s knowledge and gain new insight.

Through collaboration our Research Network can join up the dots in one another’s knowledge and gain new insight.

We will not defeat dementia by working in isolation. That’s one of the reasons Alzheimer’s Research UK established the Research Network. We have created a community full of researchers from different disciplines, forming a pool of expertise. Our researchers are approaching dementia from different angles; through collaboration they can join up the dots in one another’s knowledge and gain new insight. By increasing our investment in the Research Network we can enhance partnerships and resource sharing throughout the UK. This will bring us closer to our goal to accelerate the path from interesting biological idea to patient benefit.

UK wide collaborations

Some research projects require expertise and resources from across the country. For instance, Dr Roxana Carare at the University of Southampton wants to understand why Alzheimer’s is associated with ageing. To do this she studies brain blood vessels to work out whether changes with age prevent the clearance of toxic amyloid protein clumps that are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s. Our Network Cooperation Scheme is allowing Dr Carare to work with colleagues in Newcastle and Edinburgh to tackle this problem.

Perhaps the best example of Network cooperation is the Alzheimer’s Research UK DNA bank. This is an invaluable resource, available to researchers across the Network, for studying the genetic risk factors that underpin dementia. The DNA bank has already been instrumental in identifying 21 dementia risk factors and we anticipate that our increased funding will help researchers understand even more about how our DNA dictates the risk of dementia. Read more about the bank.

Building capacity

The number of cancer researchers outweighs those studying dementia 6:1, despite the cost of dementia to the economy exceeding that of cancer and heart disease combined. Alzheimer’s Research UK is committed to both increasing the number of scientists tackling this devastating condition and ensuring that dementia researchers are provided with the support they need to stay in the field. As such, as well as facilitating collaborative studies, the Research Network also funds grass roots research, investing in small innovative projects that may provide eureka moments we are all so desperate for. This type of work is essential for scientists to be able to apply for larger funds that ensure they can take even bigger strides towards defeating dementia.

Sharing knowledge

The exchange of ideas and resources isn’t just limited to scientific circles. A large role the Network Centres play is to hold free public events to share their research findings with the local community. These events are a great opportunity for you to find out the progress your generous donations have helped make possible, as well as to ask any questions you may have about dementia. The learning experience is not a one way street; researchers have a lot to learn from those who have been personally affected by dementia.

Our increased investment in the Research Network has only been made possible through the generous donations of our supporters. Find out more about how you can donate to support our Network of pioneering researchers.

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About the author

Dr Emma O'Brien

Team: Science news