U.K. government vows to double dementia funding if reelected

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson (EU2017EE/CC BY 2.0)

The incumbent U.K. prime minister has vowed (PDF) to double spending on dementia research if his party is elected to form the next government. The spending plan will amount to an extra £83 million ($107 million) a year.

Over almost a decade in power, the Conservative Party has made dementia research a priority, both in its own spending plans and through the creation of the Dementia Discovery Fund. The paralysis caused by the vote to leave the U.K. has seen the topic slip way down the policy agenda, but, with an election scheduled for Dec. 12, the Conservatives are seeking to frame dementia research as one of the areas that will benefit if they are elected with a mandate to resolve Brexit.

The Conservative manifesto states the party will make finding a cure for dementia “one of its biggest collective priorities” if it wins the election. In practice, that will mean doubling research funding. BBC News reports that will put £83 million more a year into dementia research. The promise comes seven years after the Conservatives vowed to double dementia funding to bring annual spending up to £66 million.

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U.K. trade group the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) welcomed the extra funding, arguing it could stimulate more investment in one of the thorniest challenges in biopharma R&D. 

“This commitment is very welcome to help U.K. scientists find new ways to fight the disease,” Sheuli Porkess, executive director of research, medical and innovation at the ABPI, said in a statement. “The U.K. is a global leader in research, and the announcement of a ‘Dementia Moonshot’ with significant public sector funding will also encourage further private investment, which will generate valuable jobs and growth in life sciences.”

The planned investment in dementia research is part of a broader plan to increase spending on R&D. After close to a decade of austerity, the Conservatives that oversaw the period of belt tightening have torn up their old fiscal rules to free up £80 billion in additional capital spending from 2020 to 2024. Some of the money will go into R&D.

In a costing document (PDF) to accompany their manifesto, the Conservatives committed to increase spending on R&D from £800 million in 2020-21 to £3.2 billion in 2023-24. The costing document singles out dementia funding as a driver of the increased spending.

News of the extra dementia funding was one of a couple of items in the Conservative manifesto with direct implications for biopharma. The Conservatives are also planning to create a £500 million fund to cut the time it takes for patients to access breakthrough medicines.  

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