UK researchers urged to lead world

Andover Advertiser: David Cameron is hosting the G8 dementia summit in London David Cameron is hosting the G8 dementia summit in London

David Cameron is calling for Britain to take a worldwide lead in dementia research with a doubling of investment by government and the private sector.

The Prime Minister is hosting the G8 dementia summit in London which is expected to agree to a package of measures on international information-sharing and collaboration in research.

In a keynote address, he will stress the importance of achieving scientific breakthroughs in order to slow down, or even prevent, the onset of the debilitating brain condition now believed to afflict 36 million people around the world.

With the World Health Organisation forecasting the numbers will almost double every two decades, Mr Cameron will say he wants UK government investment in dementia research to double from £66 million in 2015 to £122 million in 2025 - with similar increases from the commercial and charitable sectors.

A newly established UK Dementia Platform will allow different research teams across the country to share data in order to increase the scale and scope of their work, while the Medical Research Council is channelling £50 million into dementia research over the next five years.

Mr Cameron will also emphasise the importance of the life sciences sector to the UK economy with GSK announcing £200 million of investment at its manufacturing plants at Ware, Hertfordshire, and Worthing, Sussex, and UCB announcing a further £3 million.

Speaking ahead of the summit Mr Cameron said: "Building a more competitive, resilient economy with new industries and the jobs of the future is a key part of my long-term plan for Britain. That's why we are throwing everything we have at making the UK the place to invest and locate and work in life sciences.

"In the past two years we've seen £2 billion invested in this country, that will not only mean more jobs and growth, but also more research and greater progress, and it's a huge sign of confidence in our economy.

"But if we are to beat dementia, we must also work globally, with nations, business and scientists from all over the world working together as we did with cancer, and with HIV and Aids.

"Today, we will get some of the most powerful nations around the table in London to agree how we must go forward together, working towards that next big breakthrough."

For Labour, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham welcomed Mr Cameron's commitment to further investment into dementia research but said more needed to be done to help sufferers now.

"Many people have seen home care taken away or are paying much higher charges for the care they receive. The sad reality is too many people with dementia are not getting the support they need at home and are ending up at A&E in increasing numbers," he said.

"These are problems of this Government's making. As well as the long-term challenge, David Cameron needs to act to stop the deterioration of dementia services that is happening on his watch."

Hilary Evans, of Alzheimer's Research UK, said: " We boast some of the world's leading scientists in dementia, and these announcements are a clear backing of their crucial work - this support must continue.

"We hope this package of announcements will set a good example to other G8 nations to galvanise international research efforts."

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he hoped the dementia summit would have the same effect as the G8 summit in Gleneagles on HIV/Aids in 2005.

"Today should be an optimistic day," he told BBC Breakfast.

"Tony Blair had the G8 summit in Gleneagles in 2005 on HIV/Aids and actually that did turn in retrospect to be a turning point in the battle against Aids.

"I think if you bring the world's leaders together, health ministers from across the world, and we are all resolved that we really are going to do something about this as we face up to an ageing society.

"Scientists now are actually quite hopeful that they might have some drugs that can really make a difference to dementia that are coming on.

"I want today to be a day of resolve and optimism and not just a day to recognise the fact that we haven't been doing as well as we should."

Jan Lundberg, pharmaceutical firm Lilly's executive vice-president for science and technology, said he hoped that there could be a breakthrough in Alzheimer's treatment within five years.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Based on the progress we have done in understanding the pathophysiology of Alzheimer's disease, we have now a number of molecules in later stage development to become medicines.

"I'm a firm believer that within five years there are good opportunities that we would have at least one or two approaches that could reduce the progression of dementia , which of course is the hallmark.

"Even better would be if we could treat so early that dementia never happens. It's interesting because there is a mutation in the Scandinavian population where you can become very old and have intact brain function and that mechanism is the mechanism we will try to mimic with our new medicines."

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