G8 Dementia summit kicks off with host of initiatives

As the G8 Dementia summit kicks off in London, a host of initiatives have been announced aimed at tackling the disease.

First up, Prime Minister David Cameron said the UK government will double funding research into dementia to over £130 million by 2025, having committed to spend £52 million in 2012-2013 and up to £66 million by 2015. Aside from efforts on the home front, he added that “we must also work globally, with nations, business and scientists from all over the world working together as we did with cancer, and with HIV and AIDS”.

Mr Cameron went on to say that “we will get some of the most powerful nations around the table in London to agree how we must go forward together, working towards that next big breakthrough”.

Among the other projects unveiled, the Medical Research Council is investing £50 million to better understand how dementia affects the brain, improve early detection and improve treatments to delay progression. An extra £25 million will go to the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit to better understand the cognitive mechanisms of the brain and to use imaging techniques to identify early signs of dementia.

Tomorrow (December 12) will see the first ever NHS patient receive a brain scan that will enable doctors to rule out a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s at Charing Cross hospital in London. The test will use Eli Lilly’s new imaging agent Amyvid (florbetapir).

Also of note is the £3 million Dementia Consortium which unites the charity Alzheimer’s Research UK (which is putting in £2 million) with MRC Technology and Eisai and Lilly (£500 million). Also the Alzheimer’s Society has pledged to spend at least £100 million on dementia research in the next decade.

Despite much enthusiasm about the various projects, some believe that the amount of funding in the UK will not scratch the surface. Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said that “any promise of increased funding is welcome but we are worried that even £130 million over the next 12 years will not be enough to help the rapidly increasing number of people affected by this dreadful disease”.

Aside from research cash, she added that “we need to ensure that funding also goes into frontline care so that GPs can provide more services in the community that will properly support people beyond diagnosis”. Dr Baker added that “we also need to guard against creating a postcode lottery by making sure that every patient receives equal access to healthcare and services regardless of their individual circumstances or where they live”.

On a busy morning for the UK life sciences industry, GlaxoSmithKline has announced £200 million of investments (see link), while UCB says it will spend £3.3 million in a new laboratory with a cutting-edge robotic platform based at its immunology research centre of excellence in Slough.

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