The UK government has launched plans for a new £150 million dementia research institute that it says will drive a step change in research and development of the disease.
Led by the Medical Research Council, the institute will bring together world-leading experts, universities and organisations to accelerate research and innovation, develop new diagnostic tests and tackle the progression of a disease that affects an estimated 850,000 people in Britain – a figure that is expected to double in the next 20 years.
The institute, expected to be in place by 2020, will have a central UK hub with links to universities across the country, and will build on the centres of excellence in dementia already operating across the UK. There is already over £300 million of funding committed to UK research and a separate global fund to drive international innovation.
The Medical Research Council will open a competitive process in 2016, asking universities to come forward to host the institute itself, and will lead the search for a director to head it.
The commitment to form a UK-based institute was announced by the Prime Minister in his Challenge on Dementia 2020 in February – a long-term strategy focused on boosting research, improving care and further raising public awareness about the disease.
The latest announcement follows a commitment from G8 health ministers to aim to identify a cure or a disease-modifying therapy for dementia by 2025, with the first ever $100 million global Dementia Discovery Fund unveiled by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt in March this year.
Once established, the institute will centre on three key strands of work: accelerating the pace of discovery research in order to boost drug development; attracting new partnerships with the biopharmaceutical sector to develop new treatments and ways of diagnosing dementia; and developing and promoting strategies for interventions that prevent the development or progression of dementia.
Prime Minister David Cameron says: “For far too long this terrible condition has been ignored, down-played or mistaken as a part of the ageing process. When the truth is dementia is one of the greatest enemies of humanity.
“I have been clear that I want Britain to lead the way in tackling this disease. And we have already taken great strides – since 2010 investment in research has doubled, hundreds of thousands of NHS and care staff have had specialist training and more than 1 million dementia friends have taken part in awareness sessions across the country.
“This institute is another great step – and will allow us to draw together cutting-edge research tools and expertise to defeat this disease once and for all.”
The charity Alzheimer’s Research UK welcomed the plan for the research institute, with chief executive Hilary Evans saying: “This important announcement represents a strong commitment to dementia research, and Alzheimer’s Research UK welcomes this plan.
“A new Dementia Research Institute will help provide much-needed infrastructure, and its UK-wide focus will be vital for bringing together research efforts across the country. It’s important that the centre should be about more than bricks and mortar; this initiative has the potential to encourage greater collaboration and provide real leadership and focus.
“It will be crucial for the new Institute to work in tandem with existing initiatives, such as Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Drug Discovery Alliance, if we are to make faster progress towards new treatments for dementia that are so desperately needed.”