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What we must see from the government’s ‘Dementia Moonshot’

Samantha Benham-Hermetz

It has certainly been a time of political turbulence. New governments bring new opportunities – and through its pledges, this one has given renewed hope to people affected by dementia. But we need more than hope: now we need action.

The Conservatives’ made a bold election promise to double government funding for dementia research to over £160 million a year, as part of a so-called ‘Dementia Moonshot’ – a programme of work likened to the challenge of putting a man on the moon.

The ambition for the Moonshot is that it will lead us to a life-changing treatment for dementia, but for this to happen, it requires strong political leadership, backed by significant and sustained funding for the most promising areas of dementia research.

And there’s not a moment to lose, because without effective treatments, one in three people born today will develop dementia in their lifetime.

So within weeks of the pledge, Alzheimer’s Research UK has devised an ambitious spending plan. Our report, ‘Delivering the Dementia Moonshot’, identifies the most ambitious and promising research avenues, and gaps in knowledge, where urgent investment is needed.

We hope our new report will act as a blueprint for when government sets the agenda for dementia research investment.

The report outlines six priority research areas that must receive investment if we are to bring about a life-changing treatment.

Top three priorities

We’re calling on the government to:

  • Invest £20 million over five years into a global early detection initiative, which will help to detect the diseases that cause dementia 10-15 years earlier. This could help people understand and reduce their risk of developing the condition.
  • Establish a ‘Dementia Translational Medicines Accelerator’, a fund dedicated to testing the promise of drugs in very early clinical trials for dementia, which will help us to better predict whether emerging medicines will be successful at later stages of clinical trials. This would need £50 million over five years from government, with additional funding leveraged from industry.
  • Make the UK the best place to carry out clinical dementia research, with an investment of £260 million over five years. This would include recruiting a group of ‘trial ready’ volunteers ready to take part in research, boosting the research capacity of memory clinics, and expanding a network of ‘Brain Health’ clinics across the country to offer improved opportunities to take part in research and trials.

Other priority areas include building the current research infrastructure to maintain the UK’s position as a global leader in dementia research, greater investment in dementia risk reduction and prevention, along with developing robust prevalence data to better understand the scale and impact of dementia across society.

What delivering these priorities will mean

Government investment in research into other diseases, such as cancer and HIV, has delivered transformative change for people living with those conditions. We want to see the same for people affected by dementia.

Investment 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.

Now is the time to deliver political leadership that enables and capitalises upon the breakthroughs that are on the horizon, that will change the lives of people with dementia and their families across the UK. Our recommendations are ambitious, but it’s a level of ambition that’s needed if we are to bring about a life-changing treatment for dementia.

Join us in our commitment to end devastation for families affected by dementia across the UK.

To read the report in full, visit: www.alzheimersresearchuk.org/moonshot-report

Help us call on government to deliver the Dementia Moonshot by emailing your MP. Use our template email to outline our main priorities. Also, sign up to be a campaigner for Alzheimer’s Research UK.

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