Dementias Platform UK
The MRC Dementias Platform UK (DPUK) was established in 2014. It is a multi-million pound public-private partnership, developed and led by the MRC, to accelerate progress in and open up dementias research. The aims of DPUK are early detection, improved treatment and ultimately the prevention of dementias.
The dementias are a progressive, debilitating and presently incurable set of conditions characterised by neurodegeneration with a severe decline in cognitive functioning, including memory and communication. Around 850,000 people in the UK suffer from dementia, with a socioeconomic cost of over £26 billion a year.
MRC is providing £12m funding for DPUK for an initial period of five years. This core award is supplemented by £4m from six industry partners through a mixture of cash and valuable company resources such as research tools, analytical capabilities and expertise. These investments have been significantly enhanced by £37m MRC funding for networks of clinical research infrastructure.
DPUK is directed by Professor John Gallacher at the University of Oxford, together with an Executive Team of investigators drawn from the Platform’s academic and company partners. Ten universities are currently involved in DPUK: Cambridge, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Imperial College London, King’s College London, Manchester, Newcastle, Oxford, Swansea and University College London. The clinical research infrastructure award also links the initiative with the University of Bristol.
About the Dementias Platform UK
DPUK is a coordinated and integrated way of conducting neurodegenerative disease/dementia research, and will maximise the potential of UK cohort studies, both disease-specific and population. The integrated research environment has three core activities:
- Data sharing via an electronic portal between over 30 existing UK population studies encompassing 2 million participants, this enables new ideas to be tested thoroughly and quickly.
- State-of-the-art research networks in brain imaging, stem cells and informatics to create and coordinate the best possible science.
- A programme of experimental medicine studies to find out what works and why. There are three Experimental Medicine themes:
- Synaptic Health
- Innate and Adaptive Immunity
- Vascular Disease Mechanisms
NIHR-MRC Dementia Deep and Frequent Phenotyping study
An early example of a major programme that is using DPUK is the NIHR-MRC Deep and Frequent Phenotyping study, a £6.9m project co-funded with the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to identify a combination of biomarkers that change in prodromal Alzheimer’s disease for use in proof of concept phase clinical trials.
In addition to the core funding for DPUK, the further award of £37m has been used to establish three national networks for imaging, informatics and stem cell biology to significantly enhance the UK’s research capacity in the dementias. This funding was enhanced by two MRC Partnership Grants in March 2016 and provides £2m to resource the Stem Cell and Imaging Networks.
- Imaging Network - PET/MRI scanners have been installed at five universities (Cambridge, Edinburgh, Imperial College London, Manchester and Newcastle), with a sharing of resources and expertise to facilitate the development of harmonized operating protocols for efficient multi-centre studies.
- Informatics Network – An integrated informatics environment has been established to bring together cohort and linkage data for the 2 million DPUK participants and help to co-ordinate the use of imaging and tissue sample resources for experimental medicine studies.
- Stem Cell Network – This comprises co-ordinated programmes for the immortalisation of selected cell lines, high-throughput genome editing and detailed cell phenotyping.
DPUK is an ambitious public-private partnership linking a number of industry partners with a UK-wide network of academic excellence. Both industry and academic elements are crucial for its success, providing a valuable combination of skills and resources.
In addition to identifying new panels of biomarkers for the study of dementia, a key attraction to industry partners is the unrivalled access that DPUK will provide to health information on 10,000 well-characterised participants who have early stages of dementia. Furthermore the shared access to the research resources alongside the rich and unique data in DPUK will provide a basis to instigate novel joint studies. It is hoped that analysis of this accumulated knowledge will lead to new techniques for the accurate and early identification of dementia cases within population cohorts, and aid the creation of new experimental medicine programmes and clinical trials. This will spark innovative approaches that ultimately lead to new ways of treating people with dementia.
Six UK and international companies have signed the DPUK consortium agreement:
- Araclon Biotech
- MedImmune, the global biologics research & development arm of AstraZeneca
- Janssen Pharmaceuticals in collaboration with Johnson & Johnson Innovation
DPUK is open to new industry partners. Companies seeking to engage with the initiative should contact the platform Director, Professor John Gallacher or the Project Manager Allison Hanbury. Companies may join the existing consortium either as a partner or through a 1:1 agreement for access to specified resources.
Links with other neurodegeneration initiatives
DPUK has important connections to other national and international dementia initiatives such as the UK Dementia Research Institute , European Medical Information Framework (EMIF), European Prevention of Alzheimer’s Dementia Consortium (EPAD) and the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging (CCNA).
Using the UK Dementias Platform
DPUK is being set up for use as a research resource for the scientific community.
The Cohort Directory and Matrix are openly available on the DPUK website. Researchers can register for an account via the website which will provide access to the DPUK data portal. An online system for submitting study applications will go live in autumn 2016. Researchers should seek grant funding for their work through the usual MRC or other funding routes.
Data produced through research using the DPUK will be made openly available to the scientific community as the project progresses.
For more information regarding DPUK please contact:
Telephone: 01865 613166
Professor John Gallacher
Department of Psychiatry
University of Oxford
Oxford OX3 7JX
Anna Myers, Senior Project Manager
Department of Psychiatry
University of Oxford
Oxford OX3 7JX
Dr Louise Richards
Medical Research Council
2nd Floor, David Phillips Building,
North Star Avenue,
Swindon SN2 1FL