With announcements about new drugs for Alzheimer's due 2024, it could be the biggest year for dementia research yet! On top of that we're running a number of projects and supporting new research.
We had so much exciting news in 2023 about developments in dementia research – from advances in the diagnosis of the diseases that cause dementia to new disease-modifying treatments for early Alzheimer’s disease.
We also had a busy year at Alzheimer’s Society – investing more than £8 million in our year research grants round.
2024 will be no different. This year we will be investing a record amount into dementia research across many exciting initiatives like our yearly grant round and the blood biomarker challenge.
Here is a flavour of some of the exciting things we are looking forward to at Alzheimer's Society in 2024.
Investing millions in dementia research
Each year we fuel new research advancements in dementia by funding cutting-edge projects through our research grants round. The funded projects aim to understand more about the diseases that cause dementia and improve diagnoses, treatments and care.
Soon we will be announcing the researchers who will be awarded funding from our 23/24 grants round. We will be investing more than £4 million into these research projects.
Also, for the first time, in 2024 we will be investing up to £1.8 million in doctoral training centres to support the next generation of dementia research leaders.
We are aiming to create communities of PhD students working on dementia research. The centres will serve as research training hubs bringing in researchers with different skill sets together.
But our work doesn’t stop there. Later on in the year, we will be opening up applications for the next grant round. We hope it will be bigger and better than ever - and will fund even more ground-breaking dementia research.
Transforming dementia diagnosis with blood biomarkers
2023 saw our successful bid for a £5 million prize from the People’s Postcode Lottery Dream Fund for the Blood Biomarker Challenge. We came together with Alzheimer’s Research UK and the National Institute of Health and Care Research to outline a project that would see the selection and testing of blood tests for dementia for use in the NHS.
In 2024 we will announce the researchers who were chosen to take up the challenge. The research will start this year and run for up to five years and will assess different blood tests for dementia in real-world populations in the UK.
The research will also include an economic analysis of the use of blood biomarkers in the NHS, to make a case for their use in the future.
Approval decisions for new Alzheimer’s disease drugs
For the first time, clinical trials have proven that Alzheimer’s disease can be slowed with the use of drugs. In 2024 we will find out if these drugs will be made available in the UK.
In the first half of the year, we expect to hear if lecanemab, will be accepted by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) for use in the UK. It is also likely that the MHRA will also make a decision about donanemab, sometime in 2024.
We also expect a decision from the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) about whether these drugs will be available on the NHS. We submitted evidence to NICE which included insights from people living with dementia and their carers about what living with dementia is like and how these drugs will impact their lives.
NICE will take all the evidence collected, including ours, to help them make their decision. Those decisions are expected to come in the second half of 2024.
Research Nurses to promote clinical trial participation
In 2024 we will also be beginning our research nurses project aimed at promoting participation in dementia research.
Firstly, we are hiring our very first lead research nurse. They will be part of a wider programme that will grow this year to help boost the number of participants in dementia clinical trials.
The project will initially run a three-year pilot, where we will employ nurses across the UK. The aim is for them to enable faster and more diverse recruitment to clinical trials, to help support participants, and to improve their experiences of participation in research.
Addressing inequalities around healthcare and dementia
A report we commissioned last year found that there are 110 inequalities experienced by people living with dementia in relation to their access to and experience of health and social care.
Following on from this work we will be launching a research call to help better understand and combat inequalities faced by people living with dementia.
Funding new technology with the Longitude Prize on Dementia
The Longitude Prize on Dementia is a £4 million prize to drive the creation of personalised, technology-based tools for people who are living with the early stages of dementia.
These tools are aimed at enabling people to live more independently and continue to engage in meaningful activities. We spearheaded the creation of the prize along with Innovate UK and it is being delivered by Challenge Works.
In August 2024, the 24 semi-finalists, each of whom has received £80k and non-financial support in the first phase of the prize, will be whittled down to just five.
Those five finalists will progress with an additional £300,000 funding each, to test their real-world prototypes. In total, more than £3 million will be awarded in seed funding and development grants with an additional final £1 million first prize to be awarded in 2026.
Supporting innovation that helps people living with dementia
Our Accelerator Programme is designed to support innovators to boost their new dementia products and bring them to market, delivering help and hope to people living with dementia.
The 12-month programme offers up to £100,000 of investment along with business support and access to members of our Innovation Collective – a community of experts by experience and experts by profession across the dementia and innovation worlds.
Each year, after a competitive selection process, we choose a handful of partners to help bring their innovations and products to life.
Previous successes include Sibstar, a debit card and app to help families living with dementia to safely manage their everyday spending, and Jelly Drops, a sugar-free treat, made of 95% water and added electrolytes to increase fluid intake.
Our current partners, who we have been supporting in 2023/2024, have started to launch their fantastic products. The first being Recreo VR, a virtual reality headset that provides reminiscence activities to people living with dementia in care homes.
Later in the year, we will also be announcing the new partners we will be supporting in 2024/2025 and the exciting innovations we will help them bring to market. Finally, in the late summer or early autumn, we will be launching the application process for the partners of 2025.