Reasons to be cheerful: Key dementia milestones for 2020

Posted on the 24th December 2020

Dr Penny Moyle, CEO

With over 50 million people worldwide living with dementia, a disproportionate number of these contracting COVID-19, and a drop in charitable funding available to support dementia research, it would be easy to feel desperate about ever living in a world free of dementia. The toll dementia takes on individuals and their families is massive, and in 2020 it has been worsened by the palpable pain resulting from the physical separation required due to the pandemic.

So it’s more important now than ever to keep our eye on the progress that has been made and the reasons why we have hope for the future.

· 2020 saw the first full year of our Race Against Dementia Fellowship programme. The four scientists funded by RAD have found innovative ways to continue their research, even in full lockdown. Each of the Fellows is pursing innovative research that could create the much needed breakthrough that unlocks a treatment or prevention for the causes of dementia. You can find out more about their research progress here.

· In collaboration with Dementia Australia Research Foundation (DARF), RAD will be appointing two new Fellows, to start work at the beginning of 2021.

· Partnering with Alzheimer’s Research UK (ARUK), we currently have an open call for applications in a second round of Fellowship grants, open to early career dementia researchers. With other funding sources so limited at the present time for this career stage, we are expecting an unprecedented number of high quality applications. So our current efforts are focusing on fundraising that might enable appointment of as many RAD Fellows as possible.

ARUK, our key partner in the RAD Fellowship programme have also recently published their list of Nine 2020 milestones in the race to beat dementia. Key amongst these are an acceleration of drug development through the UK Drug Discover Institutes and the launch of EDoN (Early Detection of Neurodegenerative diseases) initiative to find ways to identify diseases like Alzheimers 10-15 years before symptoms start – the time when existing drug therapies could have most impact.

It is also heartening to realise that dementia rates have actually fallen 13% over the last 30 years. The reason why the total numbers continue to rise is because we are living longer. Underlying both trends are factors such as the decrease in smoking rates and better treatment of heart disease. And we now know that the number of dementia cases worldwide could be reduced by 40% if 12 risk factors for the condition could be eliminated.

Dr Sara Imarisio, head of strategic initiatives at Alzheimer’s Research UK said, “In future, prevention strategies that combine drug treatments and lifestyle changes may be the most effective strategy to limit the impact of dementia. While new drugs take many years to develop, lifestyle changes are available to us all.”

Food for thought as we turn our minds to New Year’s Resolutions for 2021.

You can read more on RAD’s progress on our Christmas round up page here.

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