Government ‘must triple’ dementia research funding or ‘pay price’, scientists warn

University of Bath Professor Roy Jones is amongst 31 of the UK's leading dementia scientists to have signed an open letter calling on the government to use today's (21 July) ministerial summit on dementia research to end "years of underfunding".

They are calling for a threefold increase in investment into efforts to find new treatments, preventions and cures for Alzheimer's and other dementias.

The Alzheimer's Research Trust coordinated campaign has the backing of two other charities: the Alzheimer's Society and Parkinson's Disease Society. The letter warns that the UK's "key weakness is lack of funding, not lack of talent".

The letter reads:

"Today (21st July) the government will hold a ministerial dementia research summit at the Royal Society. After years of underfunding, it is encouraging that dementia research is receiving serious attention.

"Within a generation, 1.4 million people in the UK will live with dementia, costing our economy £50 billion per year.

"Yet for every pound spent on dementia care, a fraction of a penny is spent on research into defeating the condition.

"Our key weakness is lack of funding, not lack of talent.

"The Government must use this summit to initiate a national dementia research strategy. Most importantly, it must commit to tripling its annual support for dementia research to £96 million within five years.

"If the government squanders this opportunity, we will all pay the price."

Prof Julie Williams, Alzheimer's Research Trust

Prof Clive Ballard, Alzheimer's Society

Dr Kieran Breen, Parkinson's Disease Society

Prof John Hardy FRS, Institute of Neurology

Prof Peter St George-Hyslop FRS, University of Cambridge

Prof Simon Lovestone, Institute of Psychiatry

Prof Roy Jones, Research Institute for the Care of Older People (RICE), University of Bath

Prof Robin Jacoby, University of Oxford

Prof Alistair Burns, University of Manchester

Prof David Brooks, Imperial College London

Prof Seth Love, University of Bristol

and 20 others (listed below)

Prof Julie Williams, the letter's lead-author and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Alzheimer's Research Trust, said: "Week after week British dementia scientists come a step closer to understanding what causes dementia, and how this might be translated into new treatments.

"The government has a great opportunity to use today's summit to formulate a national dementia research strategy, offering hope to the 700,000 people in the UK who live with dementia."

Professor Roy Jones, Director of the Research Institute for the Care of Older People (RICE) said: "I am pleased to be invited to the Dementia Research Summit at the Royal Society.

"Bath has superb opportunities through RICE for involving people with dementia and their families in important research to find new and better treatments, whilst at the University important basic research on dementia is also being carried out.

"Both approaches are important but we need increased financial resources if we are to succeed and the Summit is an important opportunity."

Rebecca Wood, Chief Executive of the Alzheimer's Research Trust, said:

"The UK is fortunate to play host to the world's leading dementia scientists. We punch well above our weight in the fight against a disease that afflicts 30 million people worldwide.

"Given the £17 billion annual cost of dementia care, the government cannot afford to get its dementia research policy wrong."

Today's dementia research summit, hosted by the health minister Phil Hope and chaired by Baroness Sally Greengross, brings together scores of leading scientists and people affected by dementia as the government reconsiders its approach to dementia research.

The MRC and Department of Health led event is widely seen as a response to criticism from charities, scientists and campaigners that the severe underfunding of dementia research has not been dealt with adequately, despite the enormous increase in dementia in the UK and wordwide.

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