Hope over dementia summit boost to ailing industry

Computer graphic of a vertical (coronal) slice through the brain of an Alzheimer patient (at left) compared with a normal brain (at right). There are fears research into dementia could peter out

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Campaigners and ministers are hoping a government-hosted summit on dementia research will help boost industry's waning interest in the condition.

Wednesday's event is being organised as part of the prime minister's 'Challenge on Dementia' initiative.

Ministers will tell the conference that the UK's "unrivalled" range of universities and NHS facilities provide the perfect platform for research.

It comes amid fears the push to find better treatments is petering out.

Last month Alzheimer's Research UK said drugs companies may "retreat" from dementia research without more support.

The warning followed disappointing results in recent clinical trials.

It is estimated that more than 800,000 people in the UK have dementia, but numbers affected are growing fast and the search for new treatments is becoming more urgent.

The event at the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre will be attended by 150 global leaders, including the Wellcome Trust, Medical Research Council, charities and major drug firms such as Eli Lilly and GlaxoSmithKline.

Confidence

It comes after David Cameron set ambitious targets for improving research and care by 2015 as part of his national challenge.

During the event speakers will stress the opportunities in the UK, including access to tissue banks and anonymised NHS clinical data.

The hope is that the event will help give industry the confidence to pursue other avenues following recent disappointments.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said: "We are all facing an unprecedented health challenge... as the population ages, but the challenge of finding effective treatments is one we cannot underestimate."

Dr Eric Karran, of Alzheimer's Research UK, said the event provided a great platform to demonstrate the "unique" opportunities available in the UK.

"A thriving research sector is our only hope for defeating dementia," he added.

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