19 January 2015

European Boost to Dementia Research

People at risk of dementia will benefit from a £50 million initiative to improve drugs that could prevent the condition.

Scientists from the UK will collaborate in a new European initiative to identify people at high risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and invite them to participate in trials of new drugs that could slow its onset.

The project, named the European Prevention of Alzheimer’s Dementia Initiative (EPAD), involves 35 partners from the academic and private sectors and will initially run for five years. It will establish a European-wide register of 24,000 people deemed at high risk of developing dementia, drawing upon the MRC’s Dementia Platform UK (DPUK), a £53 million academic and industry research collaboration launched last year.

Led by the University of Edinburgh and including partners from the Universities of Cambridge, Leicester, Oxford and Cardiff, EPAD involves researchers from the DPUK and shows the UK taking a leading role in the global fight to progress dementia research.

The team hopes to make a fundamental difference to the understanding and management of Alzheimer’s disease in people with very early symptoms or none. By identifying biomarkers - molecules in tissue or blood that indicate disease – scientists hope to detect people with early stage dementia even if they have no noticeable symptoms. Those patients at highest risk will be invited to join trials of new preventative medicines.

Professor Craig Ritchie Professor of the Psychiatry of Ageing at Edinburgh University and a member of the DPUK Executive, said

“This is a genuine game changer in the fight against dementia. By joining forces, scientists and pharmaceutical companies across Europe can deliver a real benefit to people at risk of this disease. Together, we can identify people at risk in their middle age, accelerate their treatment and offer a range of medical options rapidly within one same trial.”

Dr Rob Buckle, Director of Science Programmes at the Medical Research Council said:

“This is a major development for the global dementia research community and it’s great to see the UK playing a central role. We are delighted that the MRC’s Dementia Platform UK will become a major source of participants for the EPAD register and trials cohort. By helping world-leading experts to work together, we can do better studies more quickly and accelerate progress in dementia research.”

EPAD is mainly sponsored by the European Commission and the European pharmaceutical industry under the auspices of the Innovative Medicines Initiative Joint Undertaking.