James Nesbitt Urges Public to “Fight the Fear” of Dementia

Actor issues rallying call as poll reveals only around a third of people think research breakthrough will come in the next 25 years.

James Nesbitt will challenge the public to “fight the fear” of dementia by supporting UK scientists when he speaks at a major dementia conference organised by Alzheimer’s Research UK and the University of Ulster in Belfast on 11 March. The Murphy’s Law and Hobbit star, who has recent experience of the impact of Alzheimer’s on his family, will address the largest gathering of dementia scientists in the UK and urge greater public support of research efforts into beating the condition.

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Mr Nesbitt, who is Chancellor of the University of Ulster, makes his call as a new national poll reveals only around a third of people (38%) agree that a treatment breakthrough will be delivered in the next generation (25 years) under current research efforts.

In reaction to the YouGov poll, Mr Nesbitt will introduce the conference where speakers will make the case that the dementia research field can match the successes on efforts against diseases like cancer and heart disease, but that gulf in funding needs closing. With over 820,000 people now affected, and striking more fear than any other health condition in the over 55s, dementia is the UK’s greatest medical challenge.

The Alzheimer’s Research UK conference (11-12 March) brings together the UK’s leading dementia scientists and international research leaders to share progress in the drive towards improving diagnosis and developing new treatments and preventions. This year’s speakers include:

  • Prof Kevin Morgan from the University of Nottingham, who will discuss his research to develop a simple blood test to diagnose Alzheimer’s.
  • Prof Nigel Greig, National Institutes of Health, USA who will present his work investigating the potential of diabetes drugs for the treatment of Alzheimer’s.
  • Dr Riccardo Marioni from the University of Cambridge, whose research focuses on how lifestyle factors such as education and social engagement influence cognitive decline.

Alzheimer’s Research UK is the UK’s leading dementia research charity and funds more than £20m of pioneering research across the UK into Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

Ahead of his appearance at the Alzheimer’s Research UK Conference, James Nesbitt said:
“Dementia strikes such fear into us, but we can fight it with research. We’ve seen what science can achieve against such great medical foes as tetanus and polio, and the strides forward in treatments for cancer and heart disease. Now we have to get behind the scientists and push for a dementia breakthrough. It could be that we fear dementia out of a sense of hopelessness, but there is hope and it rests in the hands of our scientists. With the right backing, we can beat these diseases, but the money is a long way behind – we can all help close the gap.”

Prof Christian Hölscher, Coordinator of the Alzheimer’s Research UK Research Network in Northern Ireland, organised the event. He said:
“We are incredibly proud to host this year’s conference in Northern Ireland, which has a strong track record in biomedical research. We are delighted to welcome the University of Ulster’s Chancellor James Nesbitt. Last year was a pivotal year for dementia research, from the announcement of new genetic discoveries to the disappointment of failed clinical trials. This conference promises some critical discussions about how far we have come, where we are now, and how we can work together to make a difference for people with dementia now and in the future. There is great optimism and momentum in the field.”

Rebecca Wood, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“Last year the Prime Minister announced his Challenge on dementia, with some important new commitments to research. We have built on this momentum, and thanks to the generosity of our supporters, we have been able to commit a record £20million to UK dementia research projects. We know that dementia scientists in the UK punch well above their weight on the world stage. Our conference is an important way to bring together this world-leading talent in one room – forging partnerships and sharing expertise that is vital to move us towards a cure.”

“Dementia could touch every one of us at some time in our lives, and we are extremely grateful to James Nesbitt for joining us at the conference. At Alzheimer’s Research UK, we firmly believe that research the only way to find a long-term solution for those affected by dementia and, as the UK’s largest dedicated dementia research funder, we are determined to provide those answers.”

This material has been published with the kind permission of Alzheimer Research UK.

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