The initiative has been named in memory of the late actress Dame Barbara Windsor, who died with dementia in 2020 having been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease six years earlier. It will involve a ringfenced investment of £95m for clinical trials and innovative projects, helping meet the prior manifesto commitment to double research funding to £160m by 2024.
The mission will be driven by a new taskforce that brings together industry, the NHS, academia and families living with dementia. It is hoped that by speeding up the clinical trials process, more hypotheses and potential treatments can be tested for dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases. DPUK Director Professor John Gallacher had previously signed an open letter, organised by Alzheimer’s Research UK, calling for the establishment of a dementia medicines taskforce, taking inspiration from the Covid vaccines effort.
The UK government has also called for a ‘Babs’ army’ of volunteers, with or without a family history of dementia, to sign up to take part in clinical trials for new dementia treatments.
Professor Gallacher said: ‘By engaging the NHS, industry, academia and charities, this initiative will be transformative in improving brain health globally. And creating a “Babs’ army” to translate new discoveries into treatments is brilliant: it shifts the dial away from the stigma of dementia, and towards everyone supporting dementia research by getting involved in trials, as well as promoting their own brain health through a healthy lifestyle.’
Dame Barbara was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease – the most common cause of dementia – in 2014. She campaigned alongside her husband, Scott Mitchell, to raise both awareness and research funding until her death at the age of 83. It is estimated that by 2025 around one million people in Britain will be living with dementia.
Hilary Evans, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, added: ‘We’re delighted the government has recommitted to doubling dementia research funding, and that our call for a dementia medicines taskforce to speed up the development of new treatments has been heard. This marks an important step towards finding life-changing treatments for dementia and supporting our NHS to be able to deliver these new medicines to the people who need them.’