Investment in dementia research

Posted on March 27, 2012 by


David Cameron has announced greater funding for dementia research and a commitment to increase opportunities for people to take part in research. This is part of a strategy to improve dementia care and research by 2015 launched alongside an Alzheimer’s Society report mapping the impact of dementia on people living in the UK. The new support for research will be taken forward by the existing Ministerial Advisory Group on Dementia Research, led by Sally Davies and Mark Walport. This is a great example of how medical research charities are working together with government to make the case for investment in research. The prime minister has progress reports scheduled in for September 2012 and March 2013 as this goes forward.


The previous government developed a dementia strategy which has been continued by the coalition government. A Ministerial Advisory Group on Dementia Research, chaired by the health minister, Paul Burstow, was established to find ways to increase the volume and impact of high quality research into dementia. Its members include many AMRC charities – Alzheimer’s Society, Alzheimer’s Research UK, Age UK, Parkinson’s UK, The Stroke Association and the Wellcome Trust. This group have worked to ensure dementia research is a priority on the political agenda and have produced a route map for dementia research.

In February, Alzheimer’s Research UK published Defeating Dementia 2012, which highlighted the relative excellence of dementia research in the UK but also the shortcomings/insufficiencies in our capacity that are stunting progress. This made recommendations for how to tackle these problems, including increasing funding, linking basic and clinical research, and supporting researcher careers.

The Medical Research Council’s strategic priorities for investing their research funding include a strong emphasis on improving health outcomes and supporting individuals to live a long and healthy life.

What was announced?

The Alzheimer’s Society launched a big report today – Dementia 2012 – which maps out the impact of dementia on people living in the UK. There is a great infographic here summarising what they found. They plan to repeat this evidence gathering annually to chart progress in improving the lives of those living with dementia.

Coinciding with this, David Cameron launched his challenge on dementia with a goal to deliver major improvements in dementia care and research by 2015.

The whole strategy focuses on three areas, including research:

  • Driving improvements in health and care
  • Creating dementia friendly communities that understand how to help
  • Better research

Specifically on research, David Cameron announced:

  • a considerable increase in public funding through MRC, NIHR and ESRC for research into dementia by 2014/15. And investment in social science research on dementia.
  • MRC investment to include brain scans in the information gathered by BioBank – this will be carried out by the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) in Cambridge – more here
  • funding for new NIHR dementia translational research collaboration
  • steps to increase opportunities for people to take part in research

Better research
10.More than doubling overall funding for dementia research to over £66m by 2015. The combined value of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), Medical Research Council (MRC) and Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funding for research into dementia will increase from £26.6m in 2009/10 to an estimated £66.3m in 2014/15.
11.Major investment in brain scanning. MRC will make a major additional investment in dementia research using the BioBank. MRC anticipates piloting the brain scanning of a subset of this national cohort, with a view to rolling out to 50,000–100,000 participants.
12. £13m funding for social science research on dementia (NIHR/ESRC).
13.£36m funding over 5 years for a new NIHR dementia translational research
collaboration to pull discoveries into real benefits for patients. Four new NIHR
biomedical research units in dementia and biomedical research centres which
include dementia-themed research will share their considerable resources and
world-leading expertise to improve treatment and care.
14.Participation in high-quality research Offering people the opportunity to participate in research will be one of the conditions for accreditation of memory services

What next?

This work will be taken forward by the already existing Ministerial Advisory Group on Dementia Research which will be co-chaired by Dame Sally Davies (Director General of Research and Development heading up NIHR and Chief Scientific Adviser for the Department of Health and NHS) and Sir Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust.

The will report back to the prime minister on progress in September 2012 and March 2013. And the Alzheimer’s Society will also be keeping a close eye on progress when they update their report annually.

Posted in: Policy, Research