Alzheimer’s Research UK is asking the government to increase financial support for dementia research as part of its Industrial Strategy plans.

The Industrial Strategy white paper launched today (27 November) outlines a commitment to research and development and the life science sector, and emphasises the need to support an ageing population. Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, is arguing that the focus on healthy ageing must include a plan to bolster research in dementia, which is now the UK’s leading cause of death.

The charity is asking the government to use the additional £7bn in research and development funding, billed as the “biggest ever increase in public funding of R&D”, to increase its annual investment in dementia research to a minimum of £132m by 2022. This represents a doubling from the current annual investment of £66m.

In addition, Alzheimer’s Research UK would like to see dementia research overtly included in the following proposed initiatives:

-Health Advanced Research Programme (HARP)’s early diagnosis platform that would work to help diagnose diseases like Alzheimer’s that develop before symptoms appear.

-Increased tax credits offered for research & development that helps encourage pharmaceutical companies to take on costly research into new treatments that is riskier but could bring significant rewards if successful.

-Systems that coordinate anonymised patient information to provide researchers with large-scale population data, like the Digital Innovation Hubs.

-Strengthening research innovations in clinical sciences, health and medical sciences, and biological sciences, which fall behind other UK research fields according to the white paper.

Hilary Evans, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“The government has made encouraging progress in building infrastructure and financial support that could help bring about the first life-changing treatment for dementia, and we must not lose this momentum. Today’s white paper estimates that one in three children born today could live to 100, but we also know that a third of them will develop dementia in later life unless new treatments and preventions can be found.

“A commitment to early diagnosis, like the proposed Health Advanced Research Programme (HARP), is central to efforts to develop effective treatments. Meanwhile the development of Digital Innovation Hubs represents the kind of big data approach that is necessary to tackle the world-wide threat dementia poses. Dementia research must be a collaborative effort, and Alzheimer’s Research UK is committed to working with the government and partners around the world to undertake the best research possible.

“With increased funding in dementia research in recent years, the UK has seen a doubling in the number of researchers and findings produced, the highest percentage increase in the world. However, funding for dementia research still lags behind other serious conditions.

“As we prepare for people to live longer than ever before, we must place an emphasis on overcoming dementia and other conditions that rob people of quality of life in their later years.”