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Ulster Lecturer Backs Call To Prioritise Dementia Research

9 February 2011

A University of Ulster scientist is backing a call to make dementia research a priority as a new poll shows people fear the condition more than cancer and even more than death.

Despite public concern about the condition, the research response to the UK’s dementia crisis is still crippled by under funding.

The UK’s leading dementia research charity, the Alzheimer’s Research Trust, commissioned the national YouGov polls of over 2,000 people to mark its re-launch in Westminster today [9 February] as Alzheimer’s Research UK.

The charity is appealing to the public, Government and the private sector to help end years of pitifully low investment in research.

The University of Ulster’s Dr Paula McClean, a research associate in Alzheimer’s disease at Biomedical Sciences Research Institute and Dr Christian Holscher a senior lecturer in neurobiology, both members of Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Northern Ireland Network, welcomed the charity's appeal.

Dr McClean said: “There are currently nearly 16,000 people in Northern Ireland affected by dementia, and if we are to find effective treatments that are so urgently needed, dementia research must be made a national priority.

“Dementia researchers in Northern Ireland and across the UK are making real progress, and with support from Alzheimer’s Research UK, scientists are making important breakthroughs. Dementia is not a normal part of ageing – it is caused by brain diseases that we can beat, but we need more investment in the research that will give us answers.

Findings from the YouGov poll reveal the extent of public concern over dementia:

·      Across the UK, 31% of respondents feared dementia most, while 27% feared cancer most and 18% feared death most.

·      Dementia fears extend to all ages. Over half (52%) of UK adults aged 30-50 fear dementia for their parents, compared to 42% fearing cancer and 33% heart attack.

·      Among retirees, 34% worry about health the most, and more than other issues, such as money (33%). When asked specifically which conditions they worry about, 52% worry about dementia, 33% worry about cancer and 30% worry about stroke.

New figures from Alzheimer’s Research UK reveal a bleak picture of the research capacity. The Thomson Reuters Evidence report shows that for every research UK scientist working on dementia, six work on cancer.

Dementia research funding is far behind spending on other serious diseases, yet dementia costs the UK economy £23 billion, more than cancer (£12 billion) and heart disease (£8 billion) combined.

Alzheimer’s Research UK is appealing for public support and Government action to boost the UK’s research response to the dementia crisis.

Sir Terry Pratchett, Patron of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Alzheimer’s is a large number of small tragedies usually played out behind closed doors, so in spite of the numbers living with it, the world still doesn’t take much notice. When the world was shocked by HIV in the eighties, we saw a crash programme of research which has helped tame it enormously. We need the same kind of aggressive action on dementia now.”

Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Chief Executive Rebecca Wood said: “Public concern around dementia is at an all time high, yet dementia research is still the poor relation in both capacity and investment. We have such brilliant research talent in the UK which could make real inroads into defeating dementia with more support.

“Alzheimer’s Research UK is the UK’s leading dementia research charity, and the public has helped us fund hundreds of top scientists, including a record £4.5 million of grants last year. Regrettably, charity and Government spending still lags far behind efforts made against other diseases.

“Dementia poses one of the greatest threats to public health now and in the future. We need the combined efforts of charities, Government and the private sector to defeat dementia.”

Notes to editors:

·      Evidence of UK research base effectiveness available from:

o      BiS International Comparative Performance of UK Research Base, 2009

o      Science is Vital – The Argument (Point 3)

o      Alzheimer’s Research UK research into cost effectiveness of UK research in comparison to other countries

·      All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2166 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 10th - 12th November 2010.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

·      Alzheimer’s Research UK is the UK’s leading charity specialising in finding preventions, treatments and a cure for dementia.

·      Alzheimer’s Research UK website is or call 01223 843899.

·      Alzheimer’s Research UK is currently supporting dementia research projects worth £17.8 million in leading Universities across the UK.

·      There are 820,000 people living with dementia in the UK today, with numbers forecast to rise substantially in the next generation.