Image copyright Mark Bastin and Dave Liewald
UK Dementia Research Institute
Dementia is not a single disease but rather a term to describe a number of illnesses that predominantly affect people over the age of 65. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for up to two thirds of all dementia cases. Around 850,000 people in the UK have dementia and its incidence will continue to grow as the population ages, with the number of people affected projected to reach 2 million by 2051. There is currently no cure for any of the neurodegenerative conditions that give rise to dementia, which represents one of the toughest medical and economic challenges facing our society today.
A joint MRC / Alzheimer’s Society / Alzheimer’s Research UK investment of £250m has created a national institute which brings together world-leading expertise in biomedical, care, public health and translational dementia research. Centred around the need for innovative, discovery science to unlock our understanding of the mechanisms underlying the development and progression of the dementias, the UK DRI’s research will invigorate the therapeutic pipeline and drive new approaches to diagnosis, treatment, care provision and prevention.
The new institute will be catalytic for the UK's dementia research effort, and will be built in a way that optimally connects existing capabilities within the UK research landscape and engages emerging research opportunities. In particular the UK DRI will connect to the momentum already created through the establishment of the MRC Dementia Platform UK and the NIHR Translational Collaboration in Dementia Research, and will align to recent charity-led efforts in the area of drug development, for example the ARUK Drug Discovery Alliance. The UK DRI will also proactively seek industry and international partners in delivering its mission.
UK DRI ambition
The UK DRI will assemble the necessary critical mass of world-leading researchers and provide access to cutting edge tools and capabilities in order to:
- Accelerate the pace of discovery research to identify new targets for drug development
- Develop new approaches for delivering effective clinical trials to targeted patient groups
- Attract new partnerships with the biopharmaceutical sector to develop new therapeutics and diagnostics and
- Develop and promote strategies for interventions that prevent the development or progression of dementia
- Provide new insights and technology-based approaches to delivering more effective care and support to people with dementia and their carers.
UK DRI structure
The UK DRI is based across six centres within host universities to both build upon existing strengths in UK dementia research and incorporate new dimensions and capabilities. In doing so, the institute will maximize its scientific potential through facilitating links to existing infrastructure in translational, clinical and care research.
Each centre has an associate director, and every person working in the UK DRI contributes towards achieving the institute’s shared vision. Care research will also be integrated at the institute in 2018.
The six UK DRI centres are located at: University of Cambridge, Cardiff University, University of Edinburgh, Imperial College London, King’s College London and UCL. The hub of the institute activity and operational headquarters of the UK DRI is based at UCL.
Progress in establishing the UK DRI
The Momentum Awards were a rapid call to action to boost the UK dementias research base, in readiness for the UK DRI. Successful awards, totalling £3.9m across five universities, were publicly announced in October 2016.
Following a competitive international search led by the MRC in late 2016, the UK DRI Director was named as Professor Bart De Strooper, and UCL was announced as the first centre and operational headquarters. Following this, an additional five centres and their associate directors were announced in April 2017. Foundation research programmes will commence across the centres from autumn 2017, alongside wider recruitment.
The UK Dementia Research Institute will be governed by UK DRI Ltd, which will be established as a charitable company limited by guarantee.
Core recruitment is open
The UK DRI is now seeking programme leaders who will help transform the range and pace of research on dementias, and contribute to a vibrant, connected new institute. Information on all available roles and how to apply can be found on the UK DRI website.