UCL & UK supermarkets unite to beat dementia with carrier bag funds
5 October 2015
UK supermarkets Iceland, Asda, Morrisons and Waitrose have today pledged funds from the new levy on single-use carrier bags to support the construction of a new world class dementia research centre at UCL.
The Dementia Research Institute will bring together researchers from across UCL and UCLH to lead national and international efforts to find effective treatments and improve the lives of those with dementia.
The £350 million project currently has a shortfall in funding of £100 million, and the cash expected to be generated by carrier bag sales from Britain's food retailers has the potential to bridge much of that gap. Initial calculations indicate the project could raise £20m in the first year, depending on patterns of carrier bag usage under the new system. No overheads are taken from the sums raised, with 100% of funds going to support dementia research.
With the global cost of dementia estimated at more than £500 billion, the disease currently costs the UK economy more than cancer and heart disease combined. However, nearly seven times as much is spent on cancer research as is spent on dementia research by both the government and charities. Today's announcement follows a collective agreement made by David Cameron and the World Dementia Council to identify a cure or disease-modifying therapy for dementia by 2025.
Professor Alan Thompson, Dean of the UCL Faculty of Brain Sciences, said:
"Dementia is the greatest scientific, medical and socio-economic challenge of our times and affects more than 35 million people worldwide. UCL, through its translational neuroscience at Queen Square, can bring the breadth and depth of expertise required to deliver therapeutic advances to this devastating condition. Philanthropy has made a huge difference in tackling global diseases such as cancer and malaria and this unprecedented initiative sees UK retailers acting collaboratively to tackle the tragedy that is dementia and neurodegenerative diseases. Dementia is the greatest scientific, medical and socio-economic challenge of our times and affects more than 35 million people worldwide. UCL, through its translational neuroscience at Queen Square, can bring the breadth and depth of expertise required to deliver therapeutic advances to this devastating condition."
Professor Nick Fox, Director of the UCL Dementia Research Centre, said: "Dementia already devastates the lives of far too many families across Britain - we urgently need to find more effective ways to prevent, delay or treat the diseases that cause it. There are real prospects for progress if we bring together the most able scientists and clinicians and support them in their research. This remarkable initiative by some of the UK's leading supermarkets could make a real difference to accelerating that research.
"We are committed to creating a Dementia Research Institute at UCL as part of UCL rising to the challenge set by the PM and the G8 and posed by the scourge of dementia. UCL has made this a key priority. UCL can and will bring unmatched research breadth and depth as Europe's leading neuroscience centre and Europe's leading clinical dementia research, integrated and co-located with the National Hospital for Neurology.
"We are committed to working closely and effectively with others - a DRI will be a focal point that will only strengthen national and international links and attract researchers from outside the traditional "dementia" disciplines into the field."
Hilary Evans, Chief Executive of Alzheimer's Research UK, the UK's leading dementia research charity, said: "It's enormously encouraging to see major retailers with huge influence over the public putting themselves forward to help solve the dementia challenge. With a global aim to produce a disease-modifying treatment that can bring relief to people with dementia by 2025, dementia research has big ambitions and will need big initiatives to realise them. UCL is home to one of our three new dementia Drug Discovery Institutes, which will spearhead the search for the next generation of treatments - it will take scientists working collaboratively on this scale to bring relief to millions of lives blighted by dementia worldwide."
Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research at Alzheimer's Society, said: "We welcome this significant investment which will help drive forward the Government's commitment to make the UK a world leader in dementia research. We need to substantially increase the number of people that are researching dementia, and a centre dedicated to the condition will help greatly. Alzheimer's Society has already pledged over £100 million to dementia research over the next decade. We are dedicated to growing the extraordinary scientific and clinical talent across the nation to improve care today and accelerate the search for a cure. Further significant strategic investments in UK dementia research will be essential if we are to deliver the new treatments people affected by dementia so desperately need."
In addition to committing funds from their own stores, the Chief Executives of Iceland, Asda, Morrisons and Waitrose are writing to the CEOs of all other UK food retailers, urging them to lend their support to the partnership.