Research: what has been achieved so far

In the progress report published on 8 November the research champion group outlined its achievements in the first 7 months since the launch of the challenge:

Patients and their data

Since the launch of the Prime Minister’s Challenge, the NIHR and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency have launched the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD) service to allow better access to anonymised NHS patient data.  The CPRD service, jointly funded by the NIHR and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, is designed to maximise the way anonymised NHS clinical data can be used.  It will facilitate studies of epidemiology, diagnosis, care pathways, drug effects and side effects and outcomes research.  CPRD will make clinical trials more efficient.

£9.6 million has been provided by the MRC to expand the UK Biobank. This is the first phase of funding with the aim to undertake further studies such as scanning the brains of up to 100,000 Biobank volunteers. The UK Biobank, a unique national epidemiological resource of 500,000 individuals aged 40-69 years, will provide a platform for future dementia research. This offers a unique dataset that will allow further prospective studies linked to clinical histories, cognitive assessments and associated DNA, blood, urine and saliva samples. The information will help scientists discover how some people develop dementia and others do not.

NIHR DeNDRoN is enabling more people to sign up for research.  It has established a system to help people find and join research studies.  This will help increase public participation in research from the current low level of approximately 4% of people known to have dementia.  It is creating a large disease register of patients with dementia.

Discovery science

The UK is investing in the very latest technology to model disease and better target drugs specifically to an individual patient using the patient’s own genetic information.

The MRC has provided 50% more money for neuroscience research, with an expansion of its programmes investigating neurodegenerative disease, at the internationally renowned MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge that has increased its capacity to undertake research.  This means a commitment of £29 million over the next 3 years, with a further indicative budget of £10 million for each of 2015/16 and 2016/17.

UK involvement through the MRC in the international Centres of Excellence in Neurodegeneration (COEN) initiative, with seven other national funding partners, is linking national centres of excellence so these can share the best knowledge.

The MRC and the NIHR have invested £10 million in a new national Phenome Centre, the first of its kind in the world, to enable researchers to explore the characteristics of diseases in order to develop new drugs and treatments for patients. Researchers at the Centre will investigate the phenome patterns of patients and volunteers by analysing samples – usually blood or urine – very rapidly and on an unprecedented scale. This will help them to discover new ‘biomarkers’ to explain why one individual or population may be more susceptible to a disease than another. This knowledge will aid scientists in finding new, safer and more targeted treatments.

Imanova, a new state-of-the-art imaging centre established through a public-private partnership co-owned by MRC and Kings College, University College and Imperial College, London, was opened in May 2012 and aims to become an internationally renowned imaging centre and partner of choice for industry and academia. Its capability in PET and MRI brain scanning will offer significant capability for studies of dementia, and will both enhance translational research and offer the potential to significantly shorten drug development times.

Translating research

To help reduce the costs of trials involved, the Government provided £36 million for a new National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Translational Research Collaboration in dementia.  These centres of excellence in dementia will work on commercial and non-commercial research to answer questions about early diagnosis, patient stratification and novel therapeutics.  This work should lead to new proof of concept trials and discoveries, as we explore new approaches and validate existing ones.

This Collaboration provides unrivalled access to:

  • NHS patients and their data with appropriate ethical and confidentiality safeguards.
  • A developing portfolio of research including markers for the amyloid protein, neuroinflammation, blood flow and metabolism.  Using the latest clinical and research scanners, the study of disease models together with leading edge research developing biomarkers in blood and cerebrospinal fluid is possible.
  • Well-characterised dementia-related tissue samples through links to the MRC supported UK Brain Banks Network and supportive disease-cohorts, which can also provide specimens of plasma, serum, urine, DNA and RNA.

Since the launch of the Prime Minister’s Challenge, a £2.1 million investment is being made through the UK’s Biomedical Catalyst Programme towards a £3.3 million project to translate UK imaging and cognitive testing technology, widely used in clinical trials, into a digital health care platform for early dementia diagnosis.  This will ultimately help to define strategies for treatment and the prevention of dementia.  This collaborative project is led by UK SME’s involving academic researchers, the NHS and the Alzheimer’s Society.

A new £0.5 million study has been funded through the landmark MRC-AstraZeneca compound collaboration, which provides academic researchers unprecedented access to 22 chemical compounds to extend their possible application into new disease areas. This study will investigate the potential use of one such compound in controlling cerebral blood flow in Alzheimer’s disease with a view to identifying a new route for treatment.

On 10thOctober 2012, the Government brought together representatives from across the UK’s research system to showcase this country’s specialist dementia research and resources at a major industry event.  This event showed what is on offer in the UK and how a more coordinated approach from basic science, translational research and clinical research in dementia can provide an environment that gives the life sciences industry important additional opportunities to work in the UK to develop new approaches to dementia.

Implementing clinical research

The NIHR has invested £1 million to evaluate how quality of life can be improved through the impact of different memory assessment services and the withdrawal of prescribed anti-psychotic medication.  We will then be able to investigate the possibility of using patient reported outcome measure (PROMs) more frequently in dementia care.

The NIHR is also creating the right incentives to increase the numbers of patients participating in clinical research.  NIHR DeNDRoN is implementing new ways to integrate existing capabilities of local NHS systems.  Jointly with the NIHR School for Social Care Research, NIHR DeNDRoN is also promoting research in care homes, helping to increase recruitment to dementia studies.

Living well with dementia

Helping people with dementia lead healthy, independent lives for longer

The Economic and Social Research Council and the NIHR launched a call up to £13 million for social science research on dementia on the 9th July to fund national or international social science research in dementia that can make a significant contribution to scientific, economic and social impact.

Find out what the research champion group is going to do next.

In Improving research, Progress so far

2 Responses to Research: what has been achieved so far

  1. June dove says:

    I have just lost my mother to dementia and still have dad.i was able to reconise the early signs if dementia with both parents.i am sure there are millions like me who want to help towards the research of this killer disease which is now in crisis

  2. sylvia kellatte says:

    hi dont no if i have arsked before about metformin & alzhiemers red on many pages how well it would my husbands condition (can it) all so is there any reasche we can look in to in uk we live in hoddesdon can you help kind regards sylvia

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