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DPUK Director Professor John Gallacher has co-signed an open letter to the UK prime minister, published by the Sunday Times, calling for greater investment in dementia research, taking inspiration from the COVID-19 vaccines effort.

Image showing a selection of pills and medicines

The letter was organised by Alzheimer’s Research UK and features signatories including Hilary Evans, CEO of Alzheimer’s Research UK, Professor Bart De Strooper, Director of the UK Dementia Research Institute, and DPUK researchers Professor Paul Matthews and Professor James Rowe. It states:

Dear Prime Minister,

Dementia is the greatest long term health challenge we face. Nearly a million people in the UK are living with dementia, a number that will rise to 1.6m by 2050 unless we act now. As a leading cause of death, dementia has a catastrophic impact on individuals, families and wider society. And crucially, there are still no treatments in the UK to stop or slow the diseases that cause it.

Research can change this. We have made great progress over the last decade thanks to leadership and steady growth in research investment from the UK Government and others.

But we need further government action to increase the momentum and push us over the “finish line” on the first wave of new treatments in a generation.

Research investment is a vital part of the solution. There is still no clear timescale for when the Government will meet its welcome 2019 election pledge to double the dementia research budget. This must happen soon. This investment is important across all parts of the research pathway, from understanding the biology underlying dementia to supporting large scale clinical trials to help approve new medicines.

But this is about more than just funding. To fully make the UK’s ambitions a reality we need to see the prioritisation and urgent action taken to COVID-19 vaccines applied to dementia. That means coordinated, bold action from government to bring together industry, the NHS, charities and researchers to ensure treatments urgently reach people with dementia.

We call on the government, as part of the forthcoming dementia strategy, to convene a “Dementia Medicines Taskforce” to build on existing UK initiatives and act as a catalyst for radical action to accelerate the development of new dementia treatments.

The development of COVID-19 vaccines showed the power of science, the talent of our scientists and institutions, and what can be achieved with the right leadership from government. We need to see the same leadership now in dementia.

Yours,

Hilary Evans, CEO, Alzheimer’s Research UK

Professor John Davies, Director of Business Development, ARUK’s Drug Discovery Alliance

Professor Bart De Strooper, Director, UK Dementia Research Institute

Professor John Gallacher, Professor of Cognitive Health, Oxford University and Director of Dementias Platform UK

Professor Sir John Hardy, Chair of Molecular Biology of Neurological Disease, UCL Institute of Neurology and Group Leader, UK Dementia Research Institute

Professor Robert Howard, Professor of Old Age Psychiatry, UCL

Lynne Hughes BMedSci, PhD, PMP, Independent Neurology Consultant.

Professor Katie Lunnon, Professor of Dementia Genomics, University of Exeter

Professor Paul Matthews, OBE, Head of the Department of Brain Sciences in the Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College London and Centre Director, UK Dementia Research Institute

Dr Catherine Mummery, Consultant Neurologist, UCL

Professor Craig Ritchie, Professor of Psychiatry of Ageing, Edinburgh University and Director of Brain Health Scotland

Professor James Rowe, Professor of Cognitive Neurology, Cambridge University, Chief Scientific Advisor, Alzheimer’s Research UK and Associate Director, Dementias Platform UK

Professor Jonathan Schott, ARUK Chief Medical Officer and Professor of Neurology, UCL

Professor Tara Spires-Jones, Personal Chair of Neurodegeneration; Deputy Director of the Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences, Edinburgh University and Group Leader, UK Dementia Research Institute