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MP Daniel Zeichner visits Alzheimer’s Research UK

Kirsty MaraisClare van LyndenSusan MitchellEmily CookEmma HardwickHelen DaviesMelody Paton Borchardt

Protecting dementia research in a post-Brexit Britain with Daniel Zeichner MP

Even though it has been more than seven months since Britain voted to leave the EU, we are still in a state of uncertainty about exactly what Brexit will look like and we do not yet fully understand the impact this decision will have on dementia research.

Following the vote last summer, we surveyed dementia scientists to find out what they thought about Brexit. The results revealed a range of concerns including a potential loss of funding, a drop in the UK’s standing as an international leader in research, and the impact on scientists’ ability to move between labs and collaborate.

To be able to protect and advance the work Alzheimer’s Research UK is funding – both here and further afield – we need to act now to ensure these concerns are heard when the negotiations to leave the EU take place.

This is why we were delighted to welcome Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner to our headquarters in Great Abington. On Thursday, he met with representatives from our charity to discuss how we can ensure the continued growth of dementia research in a post-Brexit Britain.

As the MP for Cambridge, a centre of scientific excellence, Mr Zeichner shares our desire to keep the UK as a global hub of life sciences, particularly as we progress through the uncertainty of Brexit. The meeting focused on how we can influence the Government to ensure any future immigration system will enable skilled laboratory technicians, along with high quality researchers, to come and work in the UK.

We also spoke about the need for regulatory alignment with the EU for medicines post-Brexit and how we can ensure consistent standards across countries. It is vital that patients in the UK continue to benefit from new treatments as they come to market and they are not unduly delayed because we have a different regulatory system.

At Alzheimer’s Research UK, we have some unique research funding models and we run innovative public-private partnerships across Government, industry, charities and academia. We stressed to Mr Zeichner the need to ensure that through Brexit, future collaborations and funding are enhanced – not threatened.  If we are to find new treatments for dementia, then we must continue to work together and increase our research capacity.

The visit was a great opportunity to map out ways in which we can capitalise on the opportunities that Brexit presents whilst mitigating the threats. Mr Zeichner has already raised questions in Parliament about the impact Brexit could have on biomedical research, so he understands the need for negotiations to take the sector’s needs into account.

This wasn’t the first time Mr Zeichner has had an opportunity to learn about the work Alzheimer’s Research UK is doing to find a cure for dementia. Back in 2015, the MP toured our Stem Cell Research Centre in Cambridge, where scientists are using state-of-the-art techniques to study how Alzheimer’s develops. Following the tour, Mr Zeichner described the facility as “a shining example of cutting-edge innovation” and stressed the need for further Government funding.

His most recent visit to our office was a great opportunity for us to update him on the progress we have made over the past 18 months. We were also able to highlight the important need for further research in this area if we are to see a desperately-needed breakthrough. While here, Mr Zeichner also learnt about our Dementia Research Infoline and the vital service this provides to people hoping to find out more about the condition, along with how they can get involved in what we are doing.

Overall, it was a very inspiring visit. We look forward to working with Mr Zeichner in the future, in our joint effort to ensure the UK continues to flourish as a global hub of life sciences, while ensuring that dementia research can continue to progress in the years after Brexit.

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