With no new treatments developed for 13 years, there is increasing urgency to rejuvenate research and drug development for the diseases which cause dementia. The Data Portal – a globally unique resource of pooled data – is DPUK’s initiative to break the current deadlock in drug development, and the Discovery Awards were launched to kick-start promising new research which, using this rich data, could lead to new insights so desperately needed for creating drugs that will be effective against the disease. The awards also continue DPUK's commitment to Early Career Researchers (ECRs) – every application had to include an ECR.
Following interest from 580 people, awards were made to research teams with expertise in brain imaging, cognitive assessment, vascular disease, and early life history – all areas which are critical to the growing scientific understanding of dementia, and how to prevent and treat it.
The researchers leading these five new studies will join thirteen other investigators who are already conducting studies which use the power of DPUK population studies in their research into dementia.
Award-winning dementia research
The awards were announced at DPUK’s third annual scientific conference on Monday 23 April 2018. The five winning researchers accepted their awards to applause from an audience of over 200 delegates from major dementia research departments, pharmaceutical companies, dementia charities and other organisations.
The awards were made to six different research collaborations.
Dr Chi-Hun Kim won an award of £50,000 to investigate the impact of vascular factors on the reported declining incidence of dementia. Chi-Hun leads a collaboration of researchers from the University of Oxford, University of Edinburgh, and the National Institute on Aging in the USA.
Dr Danielle Newby won an award of £20,000 to investigate the role of metabolic and cardiovascular disease and treatments in cognitive decline. Danielle will be leading a team of researchers from the University of Oxford and the National Institute of Health.
Dr Ludovica Griffanti won an award of £39,772 to investigate brain imaging data to better understand structural brain changes that take place in cognitive ageing. Ludovica leads a team of researchers from the University of Oxford.
Dr Tom Booth won an award of £37,589 to investigate the reliability of cognitive change in ageing and dementias research. The results may also offer insight into the high failure rate for dementia clinical trials. Tom leads a collaboration of researchers from the universities of Edinburgh and Cambridge.
Dr Sarah Bauermeister won an award of £39,500 to investigate childhood adversity and its effect on later conditions, including dementia. Sarah leads a collaboration from the University of Oxford and Bristol.
The awards of £20,000 to £50,000 are significant sums which make a huge difference to the individual research leads.
Dr Newby said, "I’m really excited because this is the first major funding award I have won."
Dr Bauermeister said, "The DPUK Discovery Award is the first funding that I have been awarded as an ECR, therefore, the first time I may now be called a PI (Principal Investigator) of a project. My research investigates the effect of childhood adversity (abuse and deprivation) on adult health outcomes, including dementia. Funding attracts funding and I am hopeful that this award will now be the start of a track record of grant success in my research career."
Stringent adjudication process
The Discovery Awards were advertised widely to a large and expanding community of researchers working in universities and industry. The Discovery Awards panel peer-reviewed the applications, with conflicts of interest managed so that no team’s application was judged by a panel member known to them. Following independent scoring and collation of scores, the panel met to agree their recommendations for funding. Conflicts of interest were managed at every stage of the process.
The Data Portal
The Discovery Award winners will use data from the DPUK Data Portal – a free online resource for researchers looking to investigate dementia using population data. By bringing records from over 2m research participants into one centralised storage server, the portal is able to store participant health data at the very highest standards of data security. It makes this data available to bona fide researchers quickly and easily through virtual desktop technology. The portal facilitates analysis and research collaboration on a scale that has never before been possible for researchers investigating dementia.