Representatives of academia, the NHS, the non-profit sector and the healthcare industry have attended a conference in Oxford to explore how to tackle the current challenges in dementia research through improved collaboration.
The aim of the 21st Century Translation Dementia Research conference, organised by the NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) and Dementia Research Oxford (DRO), was to bring together experts from different fields to forge collaborations that can increase capacity and capability to deliver paradigm changes in translational dementia research.
A major focus was “building the industry conversation” through a series of 11 industry-led workshops and two roundtable discussions, led by pharmaceutical companies, that jointly identified key challenges and opportunities for improved joint working. These included:
- the requirement to better link national infrastructure at scale for ‘smarter’ clinical trials
- a focus on patients and the patient perspective
- the value of large-scale population studies for better understanding disease mechanisms
- the opportunity to link new biomarkers to disease using stem cells
- the continued need to bring together data on areas such as genomics and biomarkers
- the importance of integrating healthcare delivery with the latest treatment approaches
- the need to streamline bureaucracy to improve data access and the pace of research
As well as workshops and roundtable discussion, plenary talks included: –
- Prof Sir Martin Landray, Co-chief investigator of the RECOVERY Trial on how this successful trial to find effective treatments for severe COVID-19 might serve as a model for future dementia clinical trials;
- Prof Cecilia Lindgren, Director of the Big Data Institute, on how data science might lead to a new way of researching dementia;
- Prof Sir Rory Collins, Chief Executive UK Biobank, on how UK National Clinical Trials Infrastructure might evolve;
- Prof Charlotte Teunissen, Amsterdam University Medical Centre, Netherlands on new opportunities for biomarkers in precision medicine
The conference was co-chaired by Prof Cornelia van Duijn, Professor of Epidemiology, University of Oxford and Prof Masud Husain, Professor of Neurology and Cognitive Neuroscience, University of Oxford, who jointly lead Dementia Research Oxford.
Prof Husain said: “Industry workshops like these are a fantastic opportunity for academic researchers to make useful contacts and discuss potential collaborations, and specifically to learn how their unique and specific knowledge can be deployed to identify possible solutions to current problems – in this case in the field of dementia.”
He added: “Now is a critical juncture to invest in dementia research, we need bring together cutting-edge science, clinical expertise and industry to tackle what is one of our biggest health challenges – and one that will only increase the pressure on our stretched NHS.
“This conference is a step on that path – bringing together the best in academia, medicine and industry – and Oxford is an important centre for many of the elements that will be crucial in tackling dementia on a big scale – such as the harnessing of patient data to tackle common diseases; the development of biomarkers; a great track record in recruitment to clinical trials, especially in experimental medicine; experience of coordinating major national trials; and a thriving commercial life sciences sector.”