Alzheimer’s Research UK Chief Executive named Co-Chair of national mission to tackle dementia

Dame Babara Windsor Dementia Mission Co-Chairs

By Joyce Yu | Monday 20 March 2023

In August 2022, Scott Mitchell – Alzheimer’s Research UK Ambassador and husband of the late Dame Barbara Windsor – was invited to Downing Street to launch a new initiative aimed at driving forward dementia research, bringing us closer to a cure.  

The announcement of The Dame Barbara Windsor Dementia Mission followed years of campaigning by Scott, together with 50,000 people across the country, who joined us at Alzheimer’s Research UK by contacting their MPs, signing petitions and even writing personal letters to the then Prime Minister Boris Johnson. 

Today, to coincide with the meeting of the World Dementia Council in London, the Government has appointed two leaders to the helm of the Mission. We’re thrilled that they are our Chief Executive, Hilary Evans, and Prof Nadeem Sarwar, from the leading pharmaceutical company, Eisai.  

“’I’m so pleased to see such experienced leaders like Nadeem and Hilary be asked to lead this important work,” said Scott. “With drugs like lecanemab on the horizon, we now have proof that this is the case – proof that diseases like Alzheimer’s can and will be beaten – and the Mission has the ambition, funding and support to drive this momentum forwards.”  

Hilary and Nadeem will lead a group styled on the successful Covid Vaccine Taskforce – a model that was campaigned for by Alzheimer’s Research UK and its supporters last year.  

Hilary emphasised that everyone has a role to play in making the Mission successful and helping to pave the way for life-changing research breakthroughs. “This needs effective collaboration across the whole dementia landscape, from researchers to regulatory bodies, and of course the NHS,” she said. 

Key aims of the Mission are to grow the UK’s ability to translate scientific discoveries into new treatments, and to future-proof the nation’s clinical research infrastructure. Just last month, it was revealed that the UK had fallen from 4th to 10th place in conducting late-stage (phase III) clinical trials. And last year, we revealed shockingly low participation in late-stage dementia trials compared to other major health conditions, despite the growing number of potential dementia treatments in trials across the world.  

Hilary and Nadeem were appointed by an expert panel which included Dame Kate Bingham, who headed up the successful Covid Vaccine Taskforce, which oversaw the rapid purchase and roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines.  

This approach is endorsed by our Chief Medical Officer, Prof Jonathan Schott. “The Covid Vaccine Taskforce showed it’s possible to dramatically speed up drug discovery, clinical trials and the licencing and delivery of new therapies at scale,” he said. “Now is the time to take the lessons learnt and apply them to the next healthcare crisis of our time – dementia.” 

A key priority for Hilary will not only be fostering join-up between scientists and drug companies to develop new treatments, but also ensuring the Mission focuses on the needs of people living with dementia. This is particularly urgent as the number of people living with the condition is expected to increase more than any other leading cause of death in the UK over the next decade.  

She will take up the role part time alongside her position as Chief Executive at Alzheimer’s Research UK. We wish her and Nadeem every success and look forward to supporting their efforts to ensure the UK is at the forefront of dementia research for years to come. To echo the words of our Executive Director of Research and Partnerships, Dr Susan Kohlhaas “Together, they are a powerful driving force for change, and people with dementia deserve no less.” 

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Joyce Yu