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A DPUK banner at a datathon event.

The renewal means DPUK will receive a further £7.5m from the MRC, with up to £8.5m from partners, in support of its aims. DPUK’s mission is to accelerate progress in dementia research by identifying the early signs of disease and supporting the translation of scientific discoveries into potential new treatments and preventive strategies.

The next phase of DPUK will build on its achievements to date in three key areas, working strategically with aligned investments in the UK: 

  • The DPUK Data Portal will be developed to create a globally leading repository for population and clinical cohort study data. These studies follow participants over an extended period of time to detect changes due to disease. The Data Portal will be aligned with similar international data repositories through the Alzheimer’s Disease Data Initiative, and, in partnership with Health Data Research UK, will link NHS patient electronic health records to DPUK cohort data to provide a major open-science resource for the community. Analysis of this data will offer new insights into dementia – including the earliest signs of disease.
  • The Trials Delivery Framework will establish an engine for testing new treatments for dementia. Working with the NIHR’s Join Dementia Research initiative and the Scottish Brain Health Register, this nationwide network will power recruitment of public participants and precision-match the right volunteers to the right studies and trials to ensure we can understand what works and what doesn’t – quickly and robustly.
  • The Experimental Medicine Incubator will support a range of scientific studies investigating the root causes of dementia: how we lose synapses (the ‘junctions’ between nerve cells); what triggers brain inflammation; and how we can prevent dementia caused by vascular (blood vessel) disease. The Incubator will operate in association with the UK Dementia Research Institute, Alzheimer’s Research UK, and the Alzheimer’s Society.

Professor John Gallacher, Director of DPUK and Professor of Cognitive Health at Oxford University, said: ‘We are delighted to be able to confirm our renewed MRC funding, which means that many more scientists will have access to the technology, support and research resources needed to transform our understanding of dementia.

‘Dementia is one of the biggest public health challenges facing us globally in the 21st century, and we believe DPUK’s ethos of collaboration and innovation will help engineer the breakthroughs in early detection and treatment that we urgently need.’

Dr Robin Buckle, Chief Science Officer at the MRC, said: ‘DPUK’s success to date at bringing together world-leading expertise across academia and industry is increasing our understanding of dementia and helping give other researchers access to the field. Through this commitment of renewed funding from the MRC, DPUK is in an excellent position to continue generating crucial insights into the underlying mechanisms and early signs of dementia, as well as speeding up the journey from discovery science to effective treatment.’

DPUK was initially funded by the MRC and industry in 2013 as a major public-private partnership designed to enhance detection of early-stage disease and to support the development of new treatments to improve symptoms and delay disease progression. DPUK is led by Professor John Gallacher of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Oxford. A team of five Associate Directors comprises Dr Iain Chessell (AstraZeneca), Professor Ronan Lyons (Swansea University), Dr Vanessa Raymont (University of Oxford), Dr Carol Routledge (formerly Alzheimer’s Research UK, now Small Pharma Ltd), and Professor James Rowe (University of Cambridge).