Joining forces for the UK’s biggest endeavour in dementia research

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By Hilary Evans | Sunday 01 May 2016

Today we are pleased to announce a major new commitment for Alzheimer’s Research UK. Over the next 10 years, the charity will invest £50m into the UK Dementia Research Institute – becoming a founding partner in the Government-backed project, which will bring together hundreds of scientists in a dedicated effort to improve the lives of people with dementia.

As part of our commitment, we will also bring significant additional benefits by creating links with our existing research initiatives such as the Drug Discovery Alliance, providing a clear route for translating breakthroughs from the Institute into potential new treatments.

Alongside our investment, the Institute will also receive £50m from Alzheimer’s Society, in addition to £150m already pledged by the UK Government – bringing the total commitment to over a quarter of a billion pounds. It’s the biggest investment we’ve ever made in a single research initiative in the charity’s history, and the largest joint effort the UK has ever seen for dementia research.

What is the UK Dementia Research Institute?

Plans to develop the Institute were first announced by the Prime Minister last autumn, when it was revealed that up to £150m of funding would be made available for the initiative. With its development led by the Medical Research Council, the project will unite world-leading expertise in biomedical, translational, care and public health research. With a focus on innovative discovery science aimed at uncovering the biological mechanisms that lead to dementia, work at the Institute will be used to drive treatment development and improved diagnosis, as well as new approaches to care provision and prevention.

Operating on a ‘hub and centres’ model, with a central hub connected to regional centres of dementia research excellence, it’s expected that the Institute will be up and running by 2020. This important development will play a major part in fulfilling the vision laid out in the Prime Minister’s 2020 Challenge on Dementia, and today’s announcement represents the first moves to put that plan into action.

A long-term strategy

The establishment of the Institute is the biggest undertaking in dementia research ever to happen in the UK, but if you’ve been following our news over the last few years you’ll know that we’re already supporting some significant research initiatives of our own. For Alzheimer’s Research UK, being part of this project offers an opportunity to align those initiatives with the work of the Institute, and to ensure that we build on the momentum that has already been created by joining up research efforts across the UK.

Our Drug Discovery Alliance, along with the Dementia Consortium, will enable promising breakthroughs made at the Institute to be fed directly into the development of new treatments for dementia. In addition, our Research Network – which currently unites over 1,000 dementia scientists – will provide a unique platform to help boost the number of researchers working on this important challenge. Alongside strategic initiatives such as these and our grant schemes, our £50m investment in the Institute forms a key part of our long-term strategy to defeat dementia.

Next steps

Work will now get under way to set this project in motion, with the first steps to include recruitment of a Director to lead this work and a competitive process to decide on the locations for the Institute’s hub and connecting centres. We are excited about the potential for the Institute to deliver real change for people with dementia; research has made some great strides in recent years but there is still a big task ahead of us.

Most importantly, we can’t do any of this without you. It’s thanks to our growing army of supporters that we’re now funding more research than ever before in our history – we hope you’ll join us as we embark on this next major step in our journey towards making breakthroughs possible.

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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 to find a cure for 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.

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