Cardiff professor warns of dementia scientist shortage

Prof Julie Williams
Image caption Prof Julie Williams said attracting experts requires money

The chief scientific adviser to the charity Alzheimer's Research UK has said more experts are needed to work on understanding the causes of dementia.

Cardiff University professor Julie Williams backs a report warning that the UK's dementia knowledge base is in danger of being lost without funding.

The report, Defeating Dementia, will be launched at the Commons.

Prof Williams said high-achieving scientists were needed to meet the "colossal challenge" posed to society.

The Defeating Dementia report will be launched at the House of Commons by a panel chaired by BBC 5 Live's Shelagh Fogarty and featuring Alzheimer's Research UK patron Sir Terry Pratchett.

One of the panellists, Prof Williams is one of the UK's leading experts on Alzheimer's.

She said more needed to be done to attract experts from other areas into the field, adding that the problem was "money".

She said: "Investing in our high-achieving UK scientists is the only answer to dementia: our brains depend on theirs.

"It is clear from this report that we do not have enough scientists working in the dementia field to meet the colossal challenge it poses to society.

"We must not only support our current world-leading scientists, but also encourage new brains into the field, with new ideas and expertise to add to our armoury.

"We have to remove bureaucratic barriers to research so we can foster the right environment for scientists to thrive."

Alzheimer's Research UK estimates the number of people living with dementia in the UK is approaching a million, costing the economy more than £23bn.

Despite recent UK government initiatives, it says funding into the field is "still dwarfed by provision for research into cancer and heart disease, both of which do not pose the same degree of challenge to society and the economy.

"For every dementia scientist, over six work in cancer".

The charity's report makes 14 recommendations, including that a national dementia research strategy should encourage ring-fencing of funding for dementia research.

Rebecca Wood, chief executive of Alzheimer's Research UK, said: "If we can't boost the number of scientists working on dementia, then we will fail the 820,000 living with dementia today, and we will be powerless to avert the looming increases in prevalence."

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