Research

Dementias Platform UK

Dementias Platform UK (DPUK) was established in 2014. It is a multi-million pound public-private partnership, developed and led by the MRC, to accelerate progress in and open up dementias research. The aims of DPUK are early detection, improved treatment and ultimately the prevention of dementias.

The dementias are a progressive, debilitating and presently incurable set of conditions characterised by neurodegeneration with a severe decline in cognitive functioning, including memory and communication. Around 850,000 people in the UK suffer from dementia, with a socioeconomic cost of over £26 billion a year.

MRC is providing £12 million funding for DPUK for an initial period of five years. This core award is supplemented by £4 million from six industry partners through a mixture of cash and valuable company resources such as research tools, analytical capabilities and expertise. These investments were significantly enhanced by £37 million MRC funding for networks of clinical research infrastructure in 2014 and DPUK has since attracted further awards to a total of £63 million.

DPUK is directed by Professor John Gallacher at the University of Oxford, together with an executive team of investigators drawn from the platform’s academic and company partners. 11 universities are currently involved in DPUK: Cambridge, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Exeter, Imperial College London, King’s College London, Manchester, Newcastle, Oxford, Swansea and University College London. The clinical research infrastructure award also links the initiative with the University of Bristol.

About Dementias Platform UK

DPUK is a coordinated and integrated way of conducting neurodegenerative disease/dementia research, and will maximise the potential of UK cohort studies, both disease-specific and population. The integrated research environment has three core activities:

  • data sharing via an electronic data portal with over 35 existing UK population studies encompassing 2 million participants, this enables new ideas to be tested thoroughly and quickly
  • a clinical studies register, to recruit and match volunteers from UK population studies with clinical trials that will fast-track the journey towards new treatments for dementia
  • a programme of experimental medicine studies to find out what works and why. This activity is supported by state-of-the-art research networks in brain imaging, stem cells and informatics to create and coordinate the best possible science.

There are two experimental medicine themes:

  • synaptic health
  • vascular disease mechanisms.

NIHR-MRC Dementia Deep and Frequent Phenotyping study

An early example of a major programme that is using DPUK is the NIHR-MRC Deep and Frequent Phenotyping study, a £6.9 million project co-funded with the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to identify a combination of biomarkers that change in prodromal Alzheimer’s disease for use in proof of concept phase clinical trials.

Clinical Research Infrastructure award 

In addition to the core funding for DPUK, the further award of £37 million has been used to establish three national networks for imaging, informatics and stem cell biology to significantly enhance the UK’s research capacity in the dementias. This funding was enhanced by two MRC partnership grants in March 2016 and provides £2 million to resource the stem cell and imaging networks. 

Imaging network

PET/MRI scanners have been installed at five universities (Cambridge, Edinburgh, Imperial College London, Manchester and Newcastle), with a sharing of resources and expertise to facilitate the development of harmonised operating protocols for efficient multi-centre studies.

Informatics network

An integrated informatics environment has been established to bring together cohort and linkage data for the 2 million DPUK participants and help to coordinate the use of imaging and tissue sample resources for experimental medicine studies.

Stem cell network

The stem cell network comprises coordinated programmes for the immortalisation of selected cell lines, high-throughput genome editing and detailed cell phenotyping.

Industry partnership

DPUK is an ambitious public-private partnership linking a number of industry partners with a UK-wide network of academic excellence. Both industry and academic elements are crucial for its success, providing a valuable combination of skills and resources.

In addition to identifying new panels of biomarkers for the study of dementia, a key attraction to industry partners is the unrivalled access that DPUK will provide to health information on 10,000 well-characterised participants who have early stages of dementia. Furthermore the shared access to the research resources alongside the rich and unique data in DPUK will provide a basis to instigate novel joint studies. It is hoped that analysis of this accumulated knowledge will lead to new techniques for the accurate and early identification of dementia cases within population cohorts, and aid the creation of new experimental medicine programmes and clinical trials. This will spark innovative approaches that ultimately lead to new ways of treating people with dementia.

Eight UK and international companies have signed the DPUK consortium agreement:

  • Araclon Biotech
  • Cambridge Cognition
  • MedImmune, the global biologics research & development arm of AstraZeneca
  • GlaxoSmithKline
  • Invicro
  • Ixico
  • Janssen Pharmaceuticals, in collaboration with Johnson & Johnson Innovation
  • SomaLogic.

DPUK is open to new industry partners. Companies seeking to engage with the initiative should contact the platform Director, Professor John Gallacher or the Senior Project Manager for Science, Pamela Reid. Companies may join the existing consortium either as a partner or through a one-to-one agreement for access to specified resources.

Links with other neurodegeneration initiatives

DPUK has important connections to other national and international dementia initiatives such as the UK Dementia Research Institute, European Medical Information Framework (EMIF), European Prevention of Alzheimer’s Dementia Consortium (EPAD) and the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging (CCNA).

Using Dementias Platform UK

DPUK is a research resource for the scientific community.

The DPUK data portal brings together records of over 2 million people from over 35 cohorts in a single point of access resource. Researchers can identify which cohorts are relevant to them, apply for access to the data and then analyse it in a secure, remote environment with a complete data linkage and analysis package. Further information can be found on the platform's portal.

Researchers should seek grant funding for their work through the usual MRC or other funding routes.

Data produced through research using DPUK will be made openly available to the scientific community as the project progresses.

Contacts

Website: www.dementiasplatform.uk

For more information regarding DPUK please contact:

General enquiries:
Email: dpuk@psych.ox.ac.uk
Telephone: 01865 613166

Professor John Gallacher 
Department of Psychiatry
University of Oxford
Warneford Hospital
Warneford Lane
Oxford OX3 7JX

Dr Pamela Reid, Senior Project Manager for Science
Department of Psychiatry
University of Oxford
Warneford Hospital
Warneford Lane
Oxford OX3 7JX

Dr Catherine Moody 
Medical Research Council
2nd Floor, David Phillips Building
Polaris House
North Star Avenue
Swindon SN2 1FL