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

21 Jul 2009

A University of Manchester scientist has joined 30 of the UK's other leading dementia researchers calling on the government to use today's ministerial summit on dementia research to end "years of under-funding".

Professor Alistair Burns is one of the signatories of an open letter 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 (21 July) the government will hold a ministerial dementia research summit at the Royal Society. After years of under-funding, 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, 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.

"Despite the current squeeze in public finances, upping our investment in dementia research would be prudent. If we can work out how to delay the onset of dementia by five years, we could halve the number of people who die with the condition."

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 under-funding of dementia research has not been dealt with adequately, despite the enormous increase in dementia in the UK and worldwide.

Ends

Notes for editors

The 31 signatories are:

Prof Alistair Burns, University of Manchester
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 Robin Jacoby, University of Oxford
Prof David Brooks, Imperial College London
Prof Seth Love, University of Bristol
Prof Steve Iliffe, University College London
Prof Rajesh Kalaria, Newcastle University
Prof Lawrence Whalley, University of Aberdeen
Prof Anne Rosser, University of Cardiff
Prof Roy Jones, Research Institute for the Care of Older People (RICE), Bath
Dr Richard Wade-Martins, University of Oxford
Dr Karen Horsburgh, University of Edinburgh
Dr Stephen Gentleman, Imperial College London
Dr Diane Hanger, Kings College London
Prof Kevin Morgan, University of Nottingham
Prof Nigel Hooper, University of Leeds
Prof Nick Fox, University College London
Prof James Fawcett, University of Cambridge
Prof David Smith, Oxford Project to Investigate Memory and Ageing (OPTIMA)
Dr Maria Grazia Spillantini, University of Cambridge
Prof Esme Moniz-Cook, University of Hull
Prof James Nicoll, University of Southampton
Prof John Young, Bradford Institute of Health Research
Dr Michel Goedert FRS, University of Cambridge
Dr David Dawbarn, University of Bristol
Prof John O'Brien, Newcastle University

The Alzheimer's Research Trust press office (01223 843304) can arrange interviews with people affected by dementia.

The Alzheimer's Research Trust provides free information on Alzheimer's disease and related dementias: phone 01223 843899 or visit www.alzheimers-research.org.uk. The charity relies solely on public donations to fund its research.

For further information contact:

The Alzheimer's Research Trust's Press Officers Andrew Scheuber or Tim Parry on 01223 843304, 07748 272171, 07795 823308, or email press@alzheimers-research.org.uk

Or Aeron Haworth, Media Officer, The University of Manchester, on 0161 275 8383 or email aeron.haworth@manchester.ac.uk