Back a Boffin!

TBH LP - Image 4
TBH LP - Image 4

By Tim Parry | Friday 13 December 2013

Last night, in a post-G8 interview on the One Show, David Cameron told us to “back a boffin”. Well, that was the gist in any case. The Prime Minster was reflecting on an extraordinary week for dementia that revolved around the G8 Dementia Summit on Wednesday. Cameron said that “the most important thing is to get the world together, to think about cracking dementia in the same way the world tried to crack malaria or polio… we have great university scientists and boffins and we want them working together”. The appearance on the One Show was perhaps the mainstream culmination of the British media’s relationship with dementia.

So now from a summit action plan that promises much, we have to see the delivery of these ambitions around the world.

At times in the last fortnight, the media coverage around the summit has reminded me of the run in to the 2012 Games. I remember the bombardment of advertising riffing off the Games; the official savoury snack of the Games, the official deodorant, terrifying bed linen and even those poor people who tried to decorate their cakes in homage to the event.

There was a rush to use the Dementia Summit as a hook to launch initiatives and ideas seeking to tackle the condition, but such was the volume of announcements, some of the media coverage had little recourse but to publish bullet point lists of the developments. Fortunately, behind these bullet points were some truly worthwhile actions.

We of course had our own launch of the international Dementia Consortium which will drive treatment development in the UK in the coming years. The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council has issues a £5m call for projects to improve ways of diagnosing and measure disease progression. The Alzheimer’s Society and the British Heart Foundation have teamed up to run clinical trial to help people with vascular dementia. These are all brilliant pieces of investment that reveal us to be ahead of the game in the UK when it comes to innovation and collaboration.

To continue the (slightly weary now) analogy of the Games, perhaps we are bathing in the warm glow immediately the event. The long term legacy of such major moments can be a rather more sobering experience, so now from a summit action plan that promises much, we have to see the delivery of these ambitions around the world.

I spent some of the G8 day with two Alzheimer’s Research UK supporters, Morag and John. Morag has Posterior Cortical Atrophy, a rare form of Alzheimer’s, and she and John have been helping us and DeNDRoN to encourage people affected by dementia, and their families, to get involved with research.

In between a day of interviews the couple took part in with the BBC, I found a few minutes to sit down and have a cup of tea with them. I asked Morag how she felt about taking part in the media circus around the summit. “It’s exciting, because at last it’s not just focusing on whingeing about how bad dementia is, it’s beginning to show that the scientists have some answers.” John, sipping his tea while Morag spoke, put his cup down. “When we visit them [the research team at UCL], you can see how much it means to them. They listen to Morag, they absorb everything she says about how she’s affected [by PCA], then they go away a commit themselves to finding answers, its pretty special.” John is clearly backing the boffins.


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About the author

Tim Parry

Tim is Director of Communications and Brand at Alzheimer’s Research UK leading a team covering media, science communications, branding, health information, digital development and special projects. Tim joined the charity in 2008 and has overseen communications during a period of growth, including leading the change in brand to Alzheimer’s Research UK in 2011. Before joining the charity, Tim worked in PR and communications roles in both the public and private sectors, covering education, the environment and industry.