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King's researchers part of UK Dementias Research Platform

The NIHR Biomedical Research Unit for Dementia at the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM) and King’s College London is part of a new UK-wide multi-million pound programme to accelerate progress in dementias research, it was announced this week. 

Funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC), the UK Dementias Research Platform (UKDP), is a public-private partnership to drive understanding of neurodegenerative disease onset and progression.

Launching in April 2014, the Platform will integrate the UK’s strengths in neuroscience, population science and clinical research capability. The UKDP will provide a unique approach to dementias research, looking not just at the brain but at the whole body.

Partnerships between pharmaceutical companies, small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) and academia will be key to its success in delivering improved treatment and care for people with dementias.
Awarded first stage funding of £5m from the MRC, the Platform will involve a team of investigators from UK Institutions including the BRU at SLAM and King’s as well as Cambridge, Edinburgh, Imperial, Oxford, UCL and Swansea, and will be led by Dr John Gallacher at the University of Cardiff. GSK is the first industry partner to commit funding to the Platform, which will help drive forward the first stage of development.
Cohort studies, many funded by the MRC, will play a major role in the Platform, potentially covering up to two million study participants; central to the UKDP is the UK BioBank cohort. A database will be created to form a foundation for future experimental medicine studies aimed at early detection, treatment and ultimately, prevention of dementias. They will offer the opportunity for development of experimental tools and resources, and at later stages, may offer opportunities to trial new therapeutic agents.
As part of the platform, the MRC and the NIHR have funded a feasibility study to identify early-stage neurodegenerative disease. Led by Professor Simon Lovestone from the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London and lead for the NIHR Dementia Translational Research Collaboration, the study will involve intensive biomarker assessment of 24 pre-clinical Alzheimer's disease patients, to determine whether patients would be willing to participate in future studies. If successful, the study will lead to a larger programme embedded within the UKDP.
Professor Simon Lovestone, says: “The Deep and frequent Phenotyping study, built on the UK dementia platform sets out to find a biomarker that could be used in clinical studies in preclinical disease. Finding such a marker would enable preventative trials and we are delighted to receive this funding for an exciting and really important study that will be conducted by the six NIHR centres in the Translational Research Collaboration for Dementia.”
Dr John Gallacher, Unviersity of Cardiff who will lead the Platform, said: "The pharmaceutical industry brings new ideas and a fresh approach to problem-solving, productivity and translation. As academics we can bring added creativity, a sense of lateral thinking and precision. Ultimately, great ideas need to be turned into patient benefits."
Paul Wren, Director of Neurodegeneration, GSK Research and Development, says: "Partnership offers a real opportunity to collectively increase our understanding of the causes and progressive nature of dementia, enabling well characterised cohorts to become available for experimental medicine studies. This will facilitate drug development of novel therapeutics that can ultimately slow, halt or even prevent dementia."