Director announced to lead UK Dementia Research Institute in London
14 Dec 2016
The Director of the UK Dementia Research Institute (UK DRI) has been named as Professor Bart De Strooper, current leader of the Laboratory for the Research of Neurodegenerative Diseases at the University of Leuven and scientific director at VIB, Belgium. Professor De Strooper will lead the national institute from UCL.
The UK DRI is a joint £250m investment into dementia research led by the MRC alongside founding charity partners Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK. The Institute will be catalytic in the UK’s research efforts to diagnose, treat, care for and prevent dementias.
Professor De Strooper was selected after a competitive international search led by the MRC. People living with dementia and carers from the founding charity networks met the final candidates to contribute their views to the decision making process.
The Institute’s ‘Hub’ will be based at UCL, which was chosen through a competitive peer-review process. UCL was recognised for its world-class dementias research and state-of-the-art facilities, which will be enhanced through close linkage to a number of regional DRI centres, to be announced in the spring.
Professor De Strooper said: “I am delighted to be directing a world-leading initiative with as much potential as the UK DRI. The UK research landscape is brimming with talent and opportunity. My vision is to establish a unique environment with a diverse and interdisciplinary team ready to undertake creative and innovative research.”
Recent advances in genetics, diagnostics and imaging have advanced our understanding of what causes dementia. However, with significant knowledge gaps still in place, there are currently no treatments available that can stop or slow down the progressive condition.
Professor De Strooper continued, “Right now, our understanding of these diseases is not dissimilar to what we knew, or thought we knew, about cancer several decades ago. What we need is a paradigm shift in the way we think about dementias. Just as we realised that a whole range of factors is responsible for how cancers occur and progress in an individual, we now need to take a more holistic view of dementia and accept that a wide range of approaches may be needed in order to be successful. We have a huge amount of discovery science to do – and I want to see real surprises.”
With dementia recently recognised as the leading cause of death in England and Wales, and with a globally ageing population, it is more urgent than ever to accelerate efforts. The DRI will be on the frontline of modern neuroscience to identify new targets for drug development.
UCL President and Provost Professor Michael Arthur, said: “UCL can lay claim to world-leading expertise across the spectrum of dementia research, from genetics to evidence based treatments and support for patients and carers. We have both the ambition and ability to make a difference and meet the challenge of this most pressing of global public health problems.
“Our vision for a DRI is a truly national asset that facilitates exchanges of ideas, people and resources between groups, disciplines and centres. A UCL DRI Hub will enable and support all DRI centres to deliver on the Prime Minister’s dementia challenge 2020 and internationally on the G8 Dementia Summit Declaration.”
Professor Sir John Savill, Chief Executive at the MRC, added: “Dementias research is a very high priority at the MRC and the new Institute will place the UK at the centre of a global ambition to overcome these diseases. We are thrilled to have attracted such an outstanding scientist as Professor De Strooper and look forward to seeing his ambitious vision bringing together the best science across the UK and internationally to move the frontier of knowledge in dementias research.”
Jo Johnson, Universities and Science Minister, said: “Based in the heart of London’s knowledge quarter, this new dementia research institute at UCL will be the centre of a UK-wide effort to develop new treatments that will improve the lives of millions both here in the UK and around the globe. This is another example of the UK’s world-class leadership in global science and research, and the core strengths we will build on through our upcoming Industrial Strategy.”
Recruitment will take place throughout 2017 from around the world to populate the DRI scientific programmes at the DRI Hub and Centres, including plans for twenty new independent group leader positions for young ambitious scientists. A further phase of the Institute’s development will establish a DRI Centre focussed on care and public health research in 2018.
Read our blog to find out how people affected by dementia helped with the director recruitment decision making process.