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New centre for the Dementia Research Institute at King's

Posted on 20/04/2017
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King’s College London is one of five leading universities announced today to receive funding as part of a new UK Dementia Research Institute (UK DRI).

The UK DRI is a joint £250 million investment into dementia research led by the Medical Research Council (MRC) alongside founding charity partners Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK. The locations of the other centres are the University of Cambridge, Cardiff University, the University of Edinburgh and Imperial College London. The centres join UCL which was confirmed in December 2016 as the institute’s hub of research activity and operational headquarters.

King’s has a long track record of research excellence in dementia and neurodegeneration, from major discoveries in fundamental disease mechanisms through to large-scale clinical trials. The university’s contributions include the discovery of new genes, potential therapeutic targets, imaging and biomarkers, and international leadership in clinical trials.

Professor Sir Robert Lechler, Provost/Senior Vice President (Health) at King’s said: ‘We are delighted to receive funding from the UK Dementia Research Institute to establish a new centre within King’s College London. This new centre will build on King’s history of research excellence in this area and help us to address important research questions and ultimately benefit patients.’

The UK DRI at King’s College London will be based at the Maurice Wohl Clinical Neuroscience Institute. The centre will focus initially on dementia and motor neurone disease, using cutting-edge imaging technology to detect signs of disease years before the onset of symptoms, providing vital opportunities for early diagnosis and intervention. Following this initial phase, the centre will draw on King’s strengths in immunology and developmental neuroscience to explore the contribution of brain inflammation to neurodegenerative diseases.

Professor Chris Shaw, Director of the Maurice Wohl Clinical Neuroscience Institute and Associate Director of the UK DRI at King's College London, said: ‘Currently there are no therapies that significantly delay the progression of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and motor neurone disease, largely because we do not know enough about disease mechanisms. Although we can cure most infections and combat a great many cancers these neurodegenerative disorders have sat in the ‘too hard’ basket for too long. This UK DRI investment will enable us to fund our own research and help us to recruit some of the smartest neuroscientists in the field. It will also link our efforts to other centres of dementia research excellence, fostering greater collaboration and accelerating drug discovery. Remarkable technical advances in genetics and molecular biology mean that we are now poised to transform our understanding of disease and deliver new therapies for our patients.’

Professor Bart De Strooper, UK DRI Director, said: 'The shared vision between the centres will be at the heart of the DRI’s success, and this creativity at the borders will lead us to truly understand dementias and how they progress. We selected the centres based on innovative, excellent science, evidence of strong leadership, the alignment of goals with the DRI as a whole, and the ability to grow and collaborate as the institute gathers pace.

'King’s focus around mapping the earliest pathology associated with frontotemporal dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (motor neurone disease) resonated with the DRI’s ambitions. I am sure Professor Shaw’s drive and passion for dementia science alongside the innovative programmes supported will lead to exciting new insights.'

Science Minister Jo Johnson said: 'Dementia affects millions of people around the world, but through greater understanding we can make significant steps forward to improve lives.

'Today’s announcement of the institute’s centre locations demonstrates the UK’s existing wealth of knowledge and research expertise, and the leadership role we can take in developing new treatments to tackle this disease. This is exactly the type of project our Industrial Strategy will build on to ensure the UK remains at the forefront of global science.'

Established in response to the Government’s 2020 Challenge on Dementia, the UK DRI’s mission is to find new ways to diagnose, treat and prevent and care for people with dementias, a group of neuro-degenerative disorders which include Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease.

The selection of the UK DRI centres marks a significant investment for the institute, with total funding for the foundation programmes and resources awarded to the centres reaching £55 million, which the centres will supplement with over £20m worth of co-investment.

Following the announcement of the centres and their foundation programmes, recruitment will soon begin to establish a number of a core programmes. The institute is seeking talented researchers from around the world, from a wide variety of fields, to fill knowledge gaps in dementias and enrich expertise. Visit the UK DRI website for more information.

Notes to editors

Photographer credit: Ståle Eriksen.

For further media information please contact Jack Stonebridge, Senior Press Officer, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London on jack.stonebridge@kcl.ac.uk or 020 7848 5377.

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