Universities unite to battle alzheimer’s

The North Down MP, whose husband, former RUC Chief Constable Sir John Hermon, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2002 welcomed the new centre saying: “”Alzheimer’s is such a dreadfully cruel disease. It steals a person’s memory, it steals the personality and steals human dignity.

“We owe Alzheimer’s sufferers and carers the very best of research to not only deal with its symptoms but find a cure to prevent it in the first place.”

The Alzheimer’s Research Trust is providing £95,000 to fund the Northern Ireland Network centre for an initial four and a half year period. As the number of people with dementia is set to double within a generation this centre aims to support research into the disease.

There are currently 16,000 people with dementia in Northern Ireland, a figure projected to increase to 20,500 by 2017 and to over 47,000 by 2051. The cost of care for Alzheimer’s is more than for cancer, heart disease and stroke combined, but the amount of funding for Alzheimer’s is only a small fraction of any one of those conditions.

The new Network will include 15 researchers based across both universities with an interest in the underlying causes or novel treatments for Alzheimer’s. The Network also includes research clinicians who specialise in Geriatric Medicine and run local memory clinics.

Dr Janet Johnston from the Division of Psychiatry and Neuroscience at Queen’s, will co-ordinate the Network along with Dr Christian Holscher, Senior Lecturer in Neurosciences at the University of Ulster, Coleraine campus.

Dr Johnston said: “I welcome this Network as a very positive development for research into Alzheimer’s disease in Northern Ireland. The establishment of the Northern Ireland Alzheimer’s Trust Network signals national recognition of our research and opens up new funding opportunities. It will help foster links between local researchers, those in the UK and our international counterparts.”

Dr Holscher from the University of Ulster added: “The new ART Network in Northern Ireland will bring together all researchers and clinicians who work on Alzheimer’s disease to unite their strength and specialisations. Considering the changing age profile of the Northern Ireland population and the important position of Alzheimer’s disease within health care policy, this new Network offers an excellent strategic position to amalgamate research, attract new funding and develop a cluster of excellence in the very important area of Alzheimer’s research.”

Rebecca Wood, Chief Executive of the Alzheimer’s Research Trust said: “We are delighted to be launching the Northern Ireland Network centre. The next big Alzheimer’s breakthrough will only come if researchers work together. Through the Network centre we hope to promote research collaborations within the Northern Ireland area as well as with our other Network centres through the UK.”

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