Meeting the challenge of dementia
By rmhzdal, on 10 November 2017
The UCL Institute of Neurology held its Annual Address lecture earlier this month. It was given by Professor Bart De Strooper, the Director of the UK Dementia Research Institute (UK DRI), who outlined his vision of taking a multi-disciplinary approach to tackle this terrible disease.
The UK DRI that will house the work is a multi-million joint investment into dementia research from the MRC, Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK. UCL was selected as the hub of the research activities and operational headquarters of the UK DRI’s activity in December 2016.
The hub will work in conjunction with other partners at King’s, Imperial, Cambridge, Edinburgh and Cardiff to transform research and patient care in dementia.
Our strength in neuroscience
UCL was the obvious home for the hub of the UK DRI and we had been actively campaigning for such an initiative over recent years. We have huge strength in neuroscience. We rank first in Europe and second worldwide for ISI citations in Neuroscience and Behaviour (Thomson Reuters) and four of the ten most highly-cited neuroscientists in the world come from UCL.
More than 500 principal investigators work in this area and neuroscience accounts for more than 33% of UCL’s entire research income.
The strength of neuroscience is not limited to the School of Life and Medical Sciences but extends across the whole university, with contributions from researchers in engineering, chemistry, computer science, medical physics, philosophy, laws and the birth cohorts in the UCL Institute of Education.
We are in an ideal position to translate our discoveries from the UK DRI to improve the health of 6.2 million people in north-east and north central London, south and west Hertfordshire, south Bedfordshire and south-west and mid Essex via the Academic Health Sciences Centre and Academic Health Sciences Network that comprise UCL Partners.
Winning the hub was a great achievement for the UCL team, led by the Dean of UCL Brain Sciences, Alan Thompson; but now we have to deliver it on behalf of the country.
I am very grateful to all the staff within the Cruciform building (the Wolfson Institute for Biomedical Research, the UCL Divisions of Medicine and Infection and Immunity) as well as those in the Rayne and Rockefeller buildings who have given up space and whose work is being disrupted as we build the interim home for the UK Dementia Research Institute at UCL. It will be ready to house new appointments from 22 December.
A transformational building
Our neuroscience research is among the best in the world, but we have achieved this pre-eminence despite some, frankly, inadequate facilities. We have worked hard over the summer months to secure land to rectify this problem and house the UK DRI and deal with the poor state of Queen Square House, which houses the UCL Institute of Neurology.
I’m delighted to let you know that UCL Council has approved the decision to purchase the Eastman Dental Hospital (EDH) site from University College London Hospitals (UCLH), and sell part of Queen Square House to UCLH.
The EDH site provides UCL with three plots of land. The largest plot will be redeveloped alongside space at Queen Square House to provide the UCL Institute of Neurology with an impressive new home, operating across both sites. The EDH site will also house the UK Dementia Research Institute at UCL.
This is part of a substantial programme to plan and deliver a transformational building that facilitates collaboration with partners and industry, promotes inter-disciplinary working and utilises space in an optimised manner.
The cost will be shared by UCL, the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund, the MRC – as well as money raised by the UCL Dementia Retail Partnership. Funding for dementia research also forms a key part of It’s All Academic – UCL’s biggest-ever philanthropy and engagement campaign.
During the site evaluation process, the Provost, Chair of UCLH Richard Murley, CEO of UCLH Marcel Levi, Mike Hanna, Alan Thompson and I met regularly with principal investigators to update them on the progress of the review and to hear directly their questions and concerns about the proposal.
Through this process, the option of moving to the EDH site was modified and matured to include their feedback.
This included the development of the dual hub concept with clinical co-location on both the EDH site and the portion of the Queen Square House site that we will continue to occupy.
This will enable us to support the academic vision of the UCL Institute of Neurology while securing long-term space for the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery (part of UCLH). As UCL and the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery are committed to the co-location of clinical services and research activity – critical for translational neuroscience – this will occur at both sites.
Over the next few weeks, the programme team will be developing the detail of a new programme of work to redevelop the EDH Plot and Queen Square House sites.
I am very grateful to the Executive Steering Committee, Bart De Strooper and Adrian Ivinson in the UK DRI and all those within the Institute of Neurology who worked on this project over the summer. I would particularly like to thank colleagues at UCLH with whom we have worked so effectively. I am delighted that Professor Marcel Levi, the CEO, has a vision to develop UCLH as a research hospital that works ever more closely with UCL.
I would like to pay particular tribute to Richard Murley who has been chair of UCLH since 2010. Richard steps down at the end of December. He has been a fabulous chair of the Trust, has a natural understanding and empathy for the clinical service and is a good friend of academia.
We will miss him and wish him well as he moves to new interests. We look forward to working with Lord David Prior when he takes over from Richard to develop and deliver an exciting agenda for translational neuroscience.
Professor David Lomas, Vice-Provost (Health)