Alzheimer’s Society, Alzheimer’s Research UK and the dementia research community have come together and called on the Government to urgently support dementia research and the future of early career researchers in the field.
We have published a letter to the Science Minister Amanda Solloway highlighting our concerns the impact the pandemic will have not only on dementia research but ultimately people affected by dementia.
Research hit hard by the pandemic
Alzheimer’s Society is supporting over 30 PhD studentships and over 40 research fellowships across the UK.
Building capacity within the dementia research community has been prioritised, through initiatives such as our Doctoral Training Centres and our flagship Centres of Excellence in dementia care research.
However, this year Alzheimer’s Society will not be able to support any new funding opportunities for early career researchers due to the financial impact of the pandemic.
On average, medical research charities anticipate an over 40 per cent fall in research investment during this financial year which could take 4.5 years to recover. This is a huge blow to the dementia research field and is likely to have a disproportionate impact on early career researchers.
A lost generation
Dementia research has been chronically underfunded but has seen momentum build in recent years - growing in capacity and developing world-leading collaborations through initiative like the UK Dementia Research Institute that is part funded by Alzheimer’s Society.
However, the devastating blow of the pandemic to dementia research means there is a danger the momentum may be lost. We have already seen challenges to accessing funding result in early career researchers moving to other fields with more consistent funding opportunities.
There are fears this could result in a brain drain from dementia research. 90 per cent of our researchers that we surveyed told us they were concerned about the future of dementia research, a field that simple cannot afford a ‘lost generation’.
Alzheimer's Society Research Fellow, Dr Sarah Ryan, said:
'The financial impact of COVID-19 on dementia research will be catastrophic; charities like Alzheimer’s Society are now struggling to provide urgently-needed funding, which will result in many talented scientists being forced out of dementia research.'
'This will be personally devastating for individuals who trained for many years to work in the field, and the loss of a whole generation of experienced scientists will drastically slow progress towards a cure for dementia.'
Holding the Government to account
As part of the Conservative government's election manifesto last year, they pledged to double dementia research spending over the next decade. Today, we are urgently calling on the Government to commit to this pledge.
Without a financial injection into the field a generation of dementia researchers could be lost and hope for a future with new treatments and better care for people with dementia will stall.
Fiona Carragher, Director of Research and Influencing, said:
'There’ll be a million people with dementia in the UK by 2025. A million people living with a condition that does not yet have a cure.'
'People with dementia have already been hit hardest by the pandemic, this crisis risks their futures too.'
Read the latest news for researchers
We share the latest on the Alzheimer's Society research funding programme, how we support researchers and views on key issues and challenges in dementia research today.