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Dementia crusade’s £20m breakthrough

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: June 29, 2011

Sir Terry Pratchett

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Care Services Minister Paul Burstow yesterday announced a multi-million pound boost in funding for the fight against dementia after a high profile campaign led by West author, Sir Terry Pratchett.

The cash will be used for research into the condition that will affect more than a million Britons within 10 years, including more than 100,000 in the South West.

Mr Burstow launched a ‘route map for dementia research’ which pledges up to £20 million over five years for four new biomedical research units.

It also commits the Medical Research Council to increase funding for neurodegeneration research by 10 per cent to £150 million by 2015. The blueprint boosts the number of experts in the dementia field through new academic clinical fellowships and will ensure more patients and carers get involved in research. The Government’s advisory group on dementia research has identified specific areas most urgently in need of attention.

They include research on the value of prevention and public health programmes, the influence of genes and the environment in the development of the disease, alternatives to antipsychotic drugs, stem cell research and a better understanding of how the brain is affected by dementia.

Mr Burstow said: “Dementia is one of the biggest challenges we face. It’s an indiscriminate disease that cruelly chips away at our loved ones, leaving those living with it in fear of losing the very essence of who they are. We need to better understand dementia if we are to counter its effects more successfully. Research is the key to transforming care and ultimately to finding a cure for this devastating disease.

“We spent almost £19 million on dementia research last year. But more must be done, that’s why the Coalition Government made this commitment to increase dementia research. I am delighted that we have been able to unveil this plan.”

Dr Declan Mulkeen, Director of Research Programmes at the Medical Research Council said: “Neurodegenerative diseases, which include Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, can be devastating. Through investment in scientific research excellence and by working in partnership with leading charities, Government and industry, the MRC will speed up progress towards real improvements in early diagnosis and the development of new treatments.”

Professor Clive Ballard, director of research at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “There are 750,000 people with dementia and this number is expected to hit a million within 10 years. Alzheimer’s Society will do everything it can to support today’s calls using its own research programme and by working in partnership with the NIHR and others.”

Sir Terry, a patron of the Alzheimer’s Research Trust, announced he had been diagnosed with the disease in 2007, and has campaigned for an increase in research funding. He donated $1 million dollars to Alzheimer’s Research UK, and has lobbied Prime Ministers and Health Ministers and addressed party conferences.

The 63-year-old former Western Daily Press reporter lives in Wiltshire and says a rise in investment in research is vital to deal with a “worldwide tsunami of Alzheimer’s and other dementia diseases”.

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