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Government showcases dementia research

Published on 11/10/12 at 09:48am
Cameron's dementia challenge image
Cameron's challenge on dementia programme

The government is attempting to encourage international organisations to help the UK’s efforts to find better treatments for dementia.

An event this week, part of the coalition’s Challenge on Dementia launched earlier this year by prime minister David Cameron, sought to present the ‘unique offer’ which it says the UK has in R&D.

“The UK wants to be a world-leader in dementia research, but only by international collaboration can we tackle the global challenge of this condition,” said care and support minister Norman Lamb.

Over 150 leaders from pharma, research institutions, charities and biotech attended an event in London and were told the UK could offer funding as well as access to:

  • basic science such as neuro-imaging and tissue banks
  • translational research on epidemiology, genetics and novel biomarkers
  • clinical research, including access to patients through the National Institute for Health Research Dementia and Neurodegenerative Disease Research Network
  • patient data via the Clinical Practice Research Datalink which includes anonymised NHS clinical data for observational research.

“By bringing the industry together to discuss how the UK’s unique research resources can make a difference we are taking bold steps towards boosting dementia research,” Lamb added.

In England 670,000 people are living with dementia, with one in three people set to develop the condition in the future. The government says the cost is £19 billion a year - more than cancer, heart disease and stroke combined.

These numbers are set to rise: as many as 115 million people worldwide could be affected by dementia by 2050, including 1.7 million in the UK, the Department of Health says.

“The UK understands that only by offering the right research environment and support for industry can we all work together towards a common goal of tackling this condition,” said chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies.

Clive Ballard, director of research at Alzheimer’s Society, explained: “Events like this are a key way to foster exciting and groundbreaking partnerships between pharmaceutical companies, biotech companies, charities and other funding providers.”

His organisation produced a report this year called ‘Dementia 2012’, highlighting the strength of Alzheimer’s research in the UK.

But in July the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the barriers to tackling diseases such as Alzheimer’s, found that fewer than half of sufferers have a formal diagnosis.

The MPs and peers highlighted huge variations in access to treatment: in Belfast, for example, 70% of people receive a diagnosis, but in parts of Wales it is less than 40 per cent.

The government has already promised that the research budget for dementia would be doubled to £66 million by 2015.

And from April up to £54 million has been made available to hospitals in England that offer risk assessments on dementia to 90% of over-75 year olds admitted as emergencies.

The DH is also running a campaign to focus on early signs of dementia awareness, where to get help and support, and how to make life easier for people with dementia and their families.

Adam Hill

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