UK charity launches ambitious Alzheimer’s research campaign




Alzheimer’s Research UK has launched an ambitious five year campaign to forge alliances in pursuit of new treatments for dementia.

The new five year campaign – Defeat Dementia – aims to help the research field to grow and to accelerate progress towards new treatments and preventions.

The campaign is also being backed with initiatives from the UK government, with Prime Minister David Cameron joining calls for a cure to be found for dementia by 2025.

The charity will invest £100 million into a variety of long-term research projects in the battle against dementia, which is forecast to become one of the world’s biggest health problems as the population ages.

New treatments are desperately needed, as existing treatments can only slow down the progressive of Alzheimer’s. New approaches to tackling the disease are also needed, as numerous pharmaceutical companies have taken compounds into phase III trials, only to see them fail to show efficacy against the disease.

Dr Dennis Gillings, founder of Quintiles was appointed by the UK Prime Minister as the World Dementia Envoy as part of the G8 dementia summit in December 2013.

Speaking in support of the new research initiatives, Gillings pointed out that just three out of 104 compounds that have entered clinical trials over the last 25 years have been approved to treat the disease.

He has called for a radical change to approaches to dementia research.

Now Alzheimer’s Research UK hopes that its investment can spearhead new research, and also act as a catalyst for an increase in total spending in dementia, which lags far behind diseases such as cancer. The charity’s £100 million budget is the largest ever UK charity commitment to dementia research, and will fund initiatives covering diagnosis, prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s and other dementias. These will include

• The launch of the Alzheimer’s Research UK Stem Cell Research Centre – a £2m collaborative venture between researchers at the Gurdon Institute at the University of Cambridge and University College London to understand the causes of Alzheimer’s and screen potential new treatments.

• A network of Drug Discovery Institutes, worth £30m, housed in academic centres in the UK and beyond to allow promising breakthroughs to be translated towards the clinic.

• A £20m Global Clinical Development Fund dedicated to supporting phase I and II clinical trials to take potential new treatments into testing in people as soon as possible.

The Alzheimer’s Research UK Stem Cell Research Centre will call on novel human stem cell techniques to improve understanding of Alzheimer’s and screen potential new treatments. The technique, based on the groundbreaking research for which John Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka were awarded the Nobel Prize in 2012, involves taking skin cells donated by people with Alzheimer’s and turning them into working nerve cells in the laboratory.

Dr Rick Livesey from the Gurdon Institute at the University of Cambridge has been pioneering the use of stem cell techniques to understand Alzheimer’s. He will play an important part in running the Alzheimer’s Research UK Stem Cell Research Centre, which is being supported by the Alborada Trust.

Dr Livesey said: “Alzheimer’s Research UK was the first to support our early work in this field and it’s amazing to see it develop into such an innovative area of research with so much promise for finding new treatments. By studying nerve cells in the laboratory made from skin cells of people with Alzheimer’s, we can not only understand the disease better but quickly screen compounds that could slow or stop it.

“The Alzheimer’s Research UK Stem Cell Research Centre allows us to join forces with clinicians and genetics experts at the Institute of Neurology at UCL, pooling expertise and resource. We want to learn about how the disease starts, how it spreads through the brain, how our genetics may affect our risk of Alzheimer’s, and how the damage could be stopped. Stem cell research has the ability to transform how we approach dementia science and we’re pleased that the UK can now lead the field in this important area of research.”

The new global programme has been announced as a ‘legacy event’ from the G8 Dementia Summit held in December 2013, which called for greater investment in research and partnership working.

Rebecca Wood, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “As a fundraising charity we rely almost entirely on donations to fund our research but with heightened focus on dementia, the time is right to call on the UK public to help us reach our target. Today’s Global Dementia Legacy Event is focusing on how to attract global investment into dementia research and we’re proud to have set the bar high for other organisations across the world.”

Carol Franklin-Adams, whose husband Patrick has Alzheimer’s disease, said: “We’re all familiar with large campaigns of other charities, but it’s good to see dementia research starting to gain the recognition it deserves. It’s heart-breaking to have a loved one with dementia, watching them slip away in front of your eyes. That very little can be done for someone with dementia today is the most tragic part of all, and while we can help with loving care, we remain powerless against the disease itself.

She added that she hoped to see the kind of “wondrous breakthroughs” being seen in other diseases, such as cancer and heart disease.


The Dementia Challenge

Infographic: Alzheimer’s Research UK

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