Skip to main content

Dementia

Dementia prevention, treatment and care research that puts people first

13 March 2021
5 mins to read

Share this:

 

Around 54 million people worldwide have dementia, expected to rise to more than 152 million by 2050 (WHO), making it one of the world’s greatest health challenges.

A major issue is the need to advance new therapies and interventions, with no new disease-modifying treatment for dementia approved in the last 20 years. While researchers have made huge strides in understanding dementia in all its forms, many questions remain unanswered.

The University of Exeter specialises in new approaches to prevent and treat dementia, and to care for people who have the condition. Our people first approach means we excel at working with people affected by dementia, and all our work is designed to make meaningful impact as swiftly as possible.

Professor Clive Ballard, Executive Dean and Pro-Vice Chancellor at the College of Medicine and Health, said: "Dementia is a devastating and progressive illness, and we desperately need better treatments and ways to prevent what is rapidly becoming a global dementia pandemic. At Exeter we’re working on prevention, treatment and care to generate real benefits worldwide."


"Dementia is a devastating and progressive illness, and we desperately need better treatments and ways to prevent what is rapidly becoming a global dementia pandemic. At Exeter we’re working on prevention, treatment and care to generate real benefits worldwide."

Professor Clive Ballard,
Professor of Age-Related Diseases and Pro-Vice Chancellor, University of Exeter College for Medicine and Health


Collaborative, can-do approach

David Llewellyn, Professor of Clinical Epidemiology and Digital Health said: “The culture at Exeter sets us apart. We’re working with people from different background in new ways. There’s a real can-do attitude, and we’re very collaborative in our focus.”

Exeter has particular strengths in Lewy body and vascular dementia, as well as Alzheimer dementias and mental health and neuropsychiatric symptoms in people with dementia. Exeter’s expertise combines high-quality neuroscience, genomics, clinical trials, data science, digital health and psychology, and research on social care and person centred interventions across multiple disciplines.

New therapies spanning prevention, treatment and care

In prevention, Exeter co-leads large-scale digital, online longitudinal studies via the PROTECT platform.  Dr Anne Corbett, Senior Lecturer in Dementia Research, added: "Preventing or delaying the onset of dementia could have enormous benefits worldwide. PROTECT is helping us answer key questions about what really works to offset dementia risk, and how we can influence behaviour change."


"Preventing or delaying the onset of dementia could have enormous benefits worldwide. PROTECT is helping us answer key questions about what really works to offset dementia risk, and how we can influence behaviour change."

Dr Anne Corbett
Senior Lecturer in Dementia Research


For those who do develop dementia, new drugs are urgently needed. Strengths in discovery include a new PET and MRI imaging facility led by Professor Marios Politis, to aid better clinical trials. Exeter is also home to the UK’s leading epigenetics laboratory, led by Professor Jon Mill, which helps understand the genomic biology of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, which is crucial to better treatment.

Exeter is focussing on accelerating drug repurposing through creating better tools to conduct clinical trials more efficiently. It is also establishing a clinical trials platform which aims to test 30 compounds in the next 10 years, to benefit people affected by dementia as swiftly as possible.

In dementia care, Professor Linda Clare’s work has been designated an Alzheimer’s Society Centre of Excellence in Dementia Research, for the IDEAL programmes that help understand the factors that support people to live as well as possible with dementia, and the GREAT programme, which supports people to live independently.

Professor Clare said: "Most people who have dementia live in their own homes. Our work seeks to help address the desperate need to find new ways to support them so they can live as well as possible with dementia."

As the need for care progresses, research led by Professor Clive Ballard is improving quality of life and mental health for people in nursing homes, through the WHELD programme.

Jeffrey L Cummings, Research Professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and a key Exeter collaborator, said: "Improving lives in dementia crisis is not just drug development – We need to anticipate and prevent the occurrence of the disease and find new and better ways to care for those who have it. The University of Exeter’s research programmes are so exciting because they embrace a large number of perspectives that put people first in dealing with this crisis."


"Improving lives in dementia crisis is not just drug development – We need to anticipate and prevent the occurrence of the disease and find new and better ways to care for those who have it. The University of Exeter’s research programmes are so exciting because they embrace a large number of perspectives that put people first in dealing with this crisis."

Dr Jeffrey L Cummings
Joy Chambers-Grundy Professor of Brain Science, University of Nevada, Las Vegas


Meet our researchers

Dr Anne Corbett

Senior Lecturer in Dementia Research


  a.m.j.corbett@exeter.ac.uk

View profile

Professor Linda Clare

Professor of Clinical Psychology of Ageing and Dementia


  l.clare@exeter.ac.uk

View profile

Professor David Llewellyn

Professor of Clinical Epidemiology and Clinical Health


  David.Llewellyn@exeter.ac.uk

View profile

Dr Jeffrey L Cummings

Joy Chambers-Grundy Professor of Brain Science


View profile


Explore more research

Accelerating the search for new dementia treatment

While scientists are making advances in the search for new drugs for dementia, the pace of progress is slow. Recruiting the large number of participants needed to generate robust results is challenging, and the clinical trials pipeline faces significant bottlenecks.

Read more

Prevention: the best means of tackling dementia

Dementia risk could be reduced by 40 per cent, if meaningful action was taken across a range of different measures across the life course.

Read more

Better dementia care to enable people to live as well as possible

Delivering the best possible care for people with dementia, whether they are living in their own home or in a nursing home, is of paramount importance to their quality of life.

Read more