Press Releases

PRESS RELEASE : Sector leaders to drive progress on national Dame Barbara Windsor Mission to beat dementia [March 2023]

The press release issued by the Department of Health and Social Care on 20 March 2023.

The UK Government has named two leaders in dementia research to spearhead the ambitious national Mission to tackle dementia.

  • Hilary Evans and Nadeem Sarwar to chair national Mission to tackle dementia, launched in memory of Dame Barbara Windsor
  • Dementia Mission brings industry, academia and the NHS together to speed up dementia research, using the successful approach of the Covid Vaccine Taskforce
  • Government backing for dementia research to reach £160 million by 2024

The UK Government has named two leaders in dementia research to spearhead the ambitious national Mission to tackle dementia, which was launched in memory of the late Dame Barbara Windsor.

Hilary Evans is the Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, the largest charitable funder of dementia research in Europe. Nadeem Sarwar is currently a senior leader at Eisai, one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies. Together, they will convene industry, the NHS, academia and families living with dementia, to tackle this devastating illness.

Announcing the appointments at the World Dementia Council Summit today (Monday 20 March) Minister for Science, Research and Innovation, George Freeman said:

“Dementia is an especially cruel condition for both patients and their loved ones; as Dame Barbara’s brave campaigning made powerfully clear for all. Breakthroughs in neuroscience like the Nobel Prize-winning work of John Gurdon and his team, combined with patient cohort studies and the integration of genomics, big data and clinical research offers hope of new diagnostics, treatments and cures.

“The UK is determined to help lead this by harnessing the power of the NHS as a research engine. That’s why as 1st UK Minister of Life Science we hosted the first G20 Dementia Summit in London, and launched the Dementia Research Institute and Dementia Research Fund. Patient engagement is key, which is why our new Dementia Mission is patient centred with a key role for dementia charities.

“Hilary and Nadeem will be instrumental in that, by driving this project in the spirit of Dame Barbara and all those desperate for hope of a cure. As cancer has become a treatable and increasingly curable disease in our lifetime, so too can dementia.”

Health and Social Care Secretary, Steve Barclay, said:

“Dementia is the leading cause of death in the UK but cutting edge research into new technologies that can help to detect and measure indicators of the condition has the potential to improve diagnosis, treatment and care – and today we’re taking another step forward to spearhead efforts into beating this disease and potentially help many people across the UK.

“Hilary Evans and Nadeem Sarwar will be crucial to accelerating the development of the latest treatments and technologies, as well as driving collaboration across partners in industry, the NHS, academia and people affected by dementia.”

The ‘Dame Barbara Windsor Dementia Mission’ was launched in August 2022, in honour of Dame Barbara and the millions of other people and their loved ones who have had their lives ruined by dementia. This national Mission will develop innovative research tools and boost the number and speed of clinical trials in dementia and neurodegeneration. This contributes to the commitment to double funding for dementia research to £160 million a year by 2024 to 2025.

The Mission will follow the successful example set by the Covid Vaccine Taskforce, and forms one of eight Missions in the Government’s Life Sciences Vision and Drugs Strategy. These other Missions will also harness the power of the UK’s life sciences sector – which is Europe’s largest – to unlock new treatments and diagnoses for cancer, obesity, addiction and mental health problems.

Hilary Evans, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“I’m delighted to take on this vital role as co-chair of the UK’s Dementia Mission, alongside Nadeem. Over the last decade, I have developed partnerships with industry, academia and the NHS and will be ensuring that people with dementia are at the heart of this Mission.  This significant initiative will drive forward progress in dementia research and bring us closer to a cure.

“Dementia research has made great strides in recent years, but there is still important progress to be made on multiple fronts, and this needs effective collaboration across the whole dementia landscape.  From researchers, to regulatory bodies responsible for making sure patients can access safe and effective treatments without delay, and of course the NHS and research workforce. I look forward to working closely with Nadeem to make this happen, and help ensure the UK is at the forefront of dementia research for years to come.”

Professor Nadeem Sarwar said:

“Driven by rapid and ongoing scientific advances, we have arrived at a true inflection in dementia research and innovation. We now have an unprecedented scientific foundation upon which to build, to deliver transformative solutions for people with and at risk of dementia. The UK – anchored by its world-class scientific ecosystem that intersects scalable human biology, health technology and data sciences – has the opportunity to serve as a global catalyst and help lead the fight against dementia. I am humbled, and inspired, therefore to serve as the Co-Chair of the UK Dementia Mission, and look forward to working with Hilary to help realize this vision.”

Health Minister Will Quince said:

“We’re harnessing the best of UK innovation to change the lives of people with dementia, as well as their families and loved ones.

“Building on the success of the Covid Vaccine Taskforce, Hilary Evans and Nadeem Sarwar will co-chair the Dementia Mission to enhance collaboration across the sector, accelerate promising research and develop ground-breaking new ways to diagnose and treat this terrible disease.”

One million people are predicted to be living with dementia by 2025, and 1.6 million by 2040. It is the leading cause of death in the UK. Up to 40% of dementia cases are potentially preventable but causes are still poorly understood. Dementia can affect the brain years before people show any symptoms, which means treatments need to be tested on people far earlier.

The new national Mission will build on recent advances in biological and data sciences, including genomics, AI and the latest brain imaging technology, to test new treatments from a growing range of possible options. The Mission will work in partnership with industry and other key system partners and leverage the rich research ecosystem in the UK.