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Conservative government must act now to deliver their ‘Dementia Moonshot’

Samantha Benham-Hermetz

The votes have been cast, and the results are in: the Conservatives will form the UK’s next government. So what will this mean for dementia research?

During the election campaign, the Conservatives pledged to double funding for dementia research to over £160 million a year. While this pledge falls short of the 1% of the total annual cost of dementia that Alzheimer’s Research UK has been calling for, a doubling of research funding will be a welcome shot in the arm for efforts to bring about life-changing treatments.

The so-called ‘Dementia Moonshot’ – a programme of work likened to the challenge of putting a man on the moon – requires political leadership and significant and sustained funding to enable researchers to fill in some of the gaps in our knowledge about the diseases that cause dementia. The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, rightly described dementia as the “next great frontier”, recognising that the UK should be a global leader in the search for a cure. We were encouraged by this commitment to finding a groundbreaking treatment for people affected by dementia. In turn, Alzheimer’s Research UK is committed to working with the new government to ensure this funding has the biggest impact.

Why it’s needed

Without new ways to treat or prevent dementia, one in three people born today in the UK will develop dementia in their lifetime. The government must take responsibility for the health of our nation and invest now to support the research that could change this future.

There are no shortcuts to life-changing treatments. An increased and sustained research investment is the only way to bring about new treatments sooner and give hope to the millions of people affected by dementia up and down the country.

Top two areas for investment

  1. Detect disease earlier

With research suggesting that new treatments will have more chance of success if they are given earlier, it’s vital that we improve our ability to detect the diseases that cause dementia. That’s why we’re asking the government to work to invest in a major drive to detect the diseases that cause dementia 10-15 years earlier than we can today. This investment will help to broaden the search for new treatments and intervene with those most at risk of developing dementia.

  1. Set up a ‘Dementia Drug Innovation Accelerator’

A key part of the government’s election pledge was a new fund designed to support the validation of potential new medicines. Investment into this ‘Innovation Accelerator’ would promote the investigation of novel drug targets in trials to understand their mechanism, reduce costly failures at later stage clinical trials, and increase the potential of approved targets to succeed.

What it would achieve

Investment in these areas would not only revolutionise research progress towards life-changing treatments, and help bring about a long-term solution to the crisis of dementia.

It would also strengthen the UK’s position as a global leader in dementia research. This is vital for attracting further research investment to support UK science, and capitalising on the potential of our emerging healthcare technology sector.

Crucially, it would give hope to families up and down the country who are feeling the impact of dementia today.

We were greatly encouraged by the Conservative campaign pledge to double dementia research funding. They must now deliver on that pledge, and focus their attention on priority areas for spending that will help to transform the lives of people with dementia.

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