Delivering better research is fundamental to the Government’s Challenge on Dementia, and NIHR has a key role in boosting research to generate the evidence needed to make a step change in prevention, treatment and care. Across Government and the charity sector, research spending on dementia has doubled to over £60m a year. The ambition in the Government’s Dementia 2020 plan is for combined spending from all sources – Government, charity and industry - to be on course to double by 2025.
Key developments across the NIHR since May 2013 include:
- £20 million for research on living well with dementia: NIHR and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) awarded jointly-funded research grants focused on improving quality of life for people with dementia and their carers. The funding exceeded the original target of £13 million and now represents the world’s largest social science research programme on dementia and care.
- Increasing patient and public participation in NIHR Clinical Research Network studies: More than 24,000 people were supported to participate in dementia clinical research in 2015/16 by the NIHR Clinical Research Network, with 112 NHS Trusts involved in dementia research. In the same year, 170 dementia studies were open to recruitment on the NIHR Clinical Research Network Portfolio. 97 per cent of dementia studies completed recruitment on time to target.
- NIHR National Director for Dementia Research Professor Martin Rossor (Clinical Neurology, University College London) was appointed to help lead and support the Department of Health’s response to the research commitments within the Dementia Challenge and internationally, following our presidency of the G7 in 2013 when the UK put dementia on the global stage.
- Join Dementia Research was launched by NIHR, and is delivered in partnership with Alzheimer Scotland, Alzheimer’s Research UK, and Alzheimer’s Society, to accelerate recruitment to dementia studies. This service links study teams with volunteers who have consented to be approached about participating in research. Since 2015 more than 28,000 volunteers have registered and over 170 commercial, university and NHS organisations have used the service to recruit participants.
- ENRICH - Enabling Research in Care Homes: over 1,000 care homes are participating in this network, which provides straightforward advice and support for researchers, care home staff, and others which will help to increase the volume of dementia research in care homes. This was developed by the NIHR dementias and neurodegeneration Clinical Research Network, and informed by work from the NIHR School for Social Care Research.
Other major contributions to developing dementia research include:
- The NIHR Dementia Translational Research Collaboration The Government established the NIHR Dementia Translational Research Collaboration involving Dementia themes in all NIHR Biomedical Research Centres to focus on dementia research. These are internationally leading research centres based in the UK and are pulling exciting developments from basic science into clinical research and benefits for patients.
- Dementia research across NIHR funding programmes, including 21 projects funded under the Dementia Themed call (2011).
- The NIHR Dissemination Centre published a highlight: Supporting Carers of people with Dementia, bringing together NIHR research published from 2014 to 2016 which will be of particular interest to family carers and those agencies who need to support them.
- The Dementias Portfolio Development Group, part of the NIHR National Director for Dementia’s Office, actively supports the development of studies through establishing Writing Groups to develop new research proposals.
Collaboration with other UK organisations
The UK’s international leadership and commitment to dementia research, was exemplified by the hosting of the The G8 Summit on Dementia in London in 2013. This has been followed by the the implementation of ambitious strategies set out in the Dementia Challenge which are now being realised, including increased research activity and wider access to subjects for participation in research.
Other key developments from other organisations supporting dementia research in the UK include:
- £53 million investment from MRC and industry in Dementias Platform UK, enabling data sharing from over 30 UK population studies (more than 2 million people) and new state-of-the-art research networks in brain imaging, stem cells, and informatics.
- £250 million to form a Dementia Research Institute with a hub at University College London (UCL) and major centres in the University of Cambridge, Cardiff University, the University of Edinburgh, Imperial College London and King’s College London, including £150m of Medical Research Council funding, and £100m pledged by Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK.
- £30m to establish three Drug Discovery Institutes at Universities of Cambridge, Oxford and UCL by Alzheimer's Research UK.