24 January 2012
One of the University's leading scientists is backing an Alzheimer's charity's call for an increase in the number of scientists working on understanding the causes of dementia.
In a new report – Defeating Dementia – launched at the House of Commons this week, Alzheimer's Research UK warn that the UK's world-renowned dementia knowledge base could be lost unless scientists have better opportunities to enter and remain in the field.
Professor Julie Williams, School of Medicine, said: "Investing in our high-achieving UK scientists is the only answer to dementia: our brains depend on theirs.
"It is clear from this report that we do not have enough scientists working in the dementia field to meet the colossal challenge it poses to society.
"We must not only support our current world-leading scientists, but also encourage new brains into the field, with new ideas and expertise to add to our armoury. We have to remove bureaucratic barriers to research so we can foster the right environment for scientists to thrive."
Professor Williams is Chief Scientific Adviser to Alzheimer's Research UK, and a geneticist whose findings, identifying new Alzheimer's risk genes, have been hailed as one of the most significant breakthroughs in recent times.
She joined a panel chaired by BBC 5 Live's Shelagh Fogarty and featuring Alzheimer's Research UK patron Sir Terry Pratchet to launch the new report.
Numbers of people living with dementia are heading towards one million as the population ages, costing the economy over £23billion. With the limited treatments available only alleviating some symptoms, pressure remains on research to deliver new drugs, preventions and improved diagnosis.
The Defeating Dementia report outlines 14 recommendations to the UK Government and all research funders to help boost capacity and create a research environment better suited to the challenge posed by dementia.
Rebecca Wood, Chief Executive of Alzheimer's Research UK, said: "It is right that we pay serious attention to the care challenge that dementia poses today and tomorrow, but we can't just paper over the cracks. The only answer to dementia lies in research that will deliver new treatments and preventions.
"Government and other funders have taken some positive steps towards boosting research efforts in the UK, but we can't rely on flash in the pan tactics. Through our recommendations, we are challenging all funders to take an essential long term view on dementia research.
"If we can't boost the number of scientists working on dementia, then we will fail the 820,000 living with dementia today, and we will be powerless to avert the looming increases in prevalence."