Currently there are only two MRI-PET scanners in the UK (Siemens Healthcare) and Dementias Platform UK will be purchasing an additional five machines from GE and Siemens, as well as funding 50% of the 3T MR scanner at Cardiff University. In total, DPUK will invest £23.5m, which along with over £40m in institutional funds will allow us to build new facilities or refurbish existing ones to house the new scanners.
These advanced brain scanners will be placed in universities across the UK and involve collaborative methodology development with two major instrument vendors: Cambridge (GE Healthcare), Edinburgh (Siemens Healthcare), Imperial (GE Healthcare), Manchester (GE Healthcare) and Newcastle (GE Healthcare). Together, these show how partners are working together, investing in resources for dementias research for the long term and helping to improve UK infrastructure for dementia research so that the most can be made of the opportunities arising from DPUK and other clinical research opportunities.
The Prime Minister’s “Challenge on Dementia” and the 2013 G8 Summit highlighted the need for concerted action to improve timely diagnosis and accelerate the search for effective therapies. The DPUK Imaging Network will play a major role in this, creating a world-leading environment for novel therapeutics.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is the method of choice for imaging structure of physiology of the brain in health and disease. Positron Emission Tomography (PET) enables clinicians to visualise specific molecules, including key markers of dementias, as well as aspects of brain metabolism. When these two powerful tools are combined, clinicians may be able to see early brain molecular changes, accurately map them onto MR images and follow their progression as disease develops or worsens. With this knowledge, clinicians may be able to better identify and treat disease before people are affected by it and better understand which treatments may best halt or slow dementias.
Karl Blight, General Manager, GE Healthcare Northern Europe said “GE is proud to support Dementias Platform UK and the universities involved as they carry out such vital research. Through the use of our PETMR technology in Cambridge, London Imperial, Manchester and Newcastle, we also hope to enable image sharing and collaboration across the network. We’re looking forward to seeing how the program progresses.”
Peter Harrison, Managing Director, Siemens Healthcare Limited said “We are delighted to support Dementias Platform UK and to extend the network of MR-PET scanners beyond the two existing Siemens systems in London at University College London and St Thomas’ Hospitals. The Edinburgh system will complement both the Dementias Platform UK network and also the extensive imaging systems already in place at Edinburgh, thus confirming its exemplary research credentials.”
Professor John Gallacher, Director of Dementias Platform UK said: “Purchasing vital equipment will put the UK at the forefront of dementia research worldwide and establishing networks of scientists will ensure that researchers are working together to make the best use of the equipment.”
A key element of Dementias Platform UK will be to establish networks for Informatics and Stem Cells, as well as that for MRI-PET Imaging. All of the networks have been funded by the MRC Clinical Research Infrastructure fund, which was announced by George Osborne in October 2014. An additional £37m was awarded to DPUK taking the total investment to £53m.
Professor Paul Matthews, Lead for the DPUK Imaging Network and Edmond and Lily Safra Chair said: “It is increasingly recognised that the key to future treatments for dementia is identifying the early risk factors and biomarkers – and this can only be done by studying large samples before the onset of dementia. This relies heavily on data from scans. By using MRI-PET scanners in a co-ordinated and harmonised way across institutes, we will all contribute better to understanding and potentially treating dementia.”
The two MRI-PET scanners that already exist have mainly been used to scan cancer patients, but the priority for these new DPUK Imaging Network scanners will be dementia research.
Minister for Life Sciences, George Freeman said: “The government’s commitment to investment in dementia infrastructure and research is vital if we are to maintain the UK’s position as a world leader in life sciences and get patients earlier access to new treatments. By better understanding how the disease works we will be able to make a huge difference to patients’ and their families’ lives. These efforts will not only raise standards but reduce costs and make the UK the best place in the world to study dementia.”