Three leading research funders from the UK and North America have joined forces to launch a new global initiative called MEND, or MEchanisms of cellular death in NeuroDegeneration, with a fund of $1.25m USD (£820,000/$1.56m CDN) for targeted research into brain diseases that cause dementia, such as Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s Research UK, the Alzheimer’s Association based in the US and the Weston Brain Institute in Canada, whose participation in MEND is funded by Selfridges, announce the collaboration in response to the G7 health leaders’ commitment to collectively and significantly increase funding for dementia research, as announced at their December 2013 summit. G7 health leaders are meeting in Bethesda, Maryland (US), this week to review progress on their goal to identify a cure or disease-modifying treatment by 2025.
Today, 44 million people are living with dementia worldwide, and that number is set to almost double by 2030 and more than triple by 2050, according to Alzheimer’s Disease International: World Alzheimer Report 2014.
MEND demonstrates significant leadership and commitment from non-profit funders in advancing dementia research. Its funding will focus on pioneering new projects to understand the causes of brain cell death, a key goal for research into neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s, frontotemporal dementia and dementia with Lewy bodies. These diseases cause a range of debilitating symptoms, including memory loss, difficulty with language, visual hallucinations or problems with movement, but they all share the same hallmark – the death of brain cells, including neurons and glia. In recent years there has been significant progress in scientists’ understanding of these diseases, but these advances have also highlighted key areas where there are still gaps in knowledge. The mechanisms underlying brain cell death are yet to be fully understood, and the significance and commonality of this hallmark across multiple brain diseases is a key reason for the MEND initiative. Finding answers to this important question could provide vital new clues to help fight these diseases.
“Dementia is a global problem and its solutions will require global collaboration. As charities dedicated to improving people’s lives we have an important role to play in this challenge, and Alzheimer’s Research UK is delighted to be joining forces with other leading organisations from across the world in this united effort. We now understand more than ever about the diseases that cause dementia, but there are still key questions to be answered to help us learn how to fight them. This challenge will help us gain crucial insight to help drive forward efforts to find much-needed new treatments,” said Dr Eric Karran, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity.
“We are encouraged by the potential of this unified effort to guide the development of treatments across several neurodegenerative diseases,” said Maria Carrillo, Ph.D., Chief Science Officer for the Alzheimer’s Association, the world’s largest nonprofit funder of Alzheimer’s disease research. “This work will not only accelerate and improve our chances of finding ways to preserve brain health throughout aging, but will contribute toward achieving the goal of effectively treating Alzheimer’s by 2025, as set out by the U.S. National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s disease.”
“The Weston Brain Institute was established to be a catalyst in a transformational new chapter in the fight against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. The global epidemic of dementia underscores the importance of activating international collaborations like MEND, a program aimed at funding a critical knowledge gap,” said W. Galen Weston, Chairman and President of The W. Garfield Weston Foundation, which launched the Weston Brain Institute. “The Institute is pleased to work with its MEND partners, including Selfridges, to accelerate high priority research with the potential to lead to treatments for multiple brain diseases of aging.”
Selfridges’ funds will be managed and allocated by the Weston Brain Institute.
MEND is open to applications from scientists around the globe, and researchers will be encouraged to collaborate on projects, sharing knowledge and resources in order to speed up progress. It’s hoped the scheme will also help answer fundamental questions about the similarities and differences between different diseases, such as whether the underlying mechanisms that cause cell death differ from one disease to another, and why each disease affects different types.