Elizabeth Hogden

Elizabeth Hogben

Head of Science and Innovation (Japan), British Embassy Tokyo

Part of Global Science and Innovation Network UK in Japan

7th March 2017 Tokyo

Involve patients, harness new technologies, share data: future prospects for UK and Japan research partnerships to tackle dementia

Dementia is not an inevitable consequence of ageing…. and yet it is one of the major causes of disability and dependency among older people worldwide. Japan as a society is wrestling with the effects of a rapidly ageing population, where the number of people with dementia is forecast to rise to more than 7 million by 2025. Dementia doesn’t just affect patients: the impact on caregivers, family and societies can be physical, psychological, social and economic. The cost of dementia to the UK economy is estimated to be twice as much as cancer. 

On 20 February 2017, the British Embassy Tokyo hosted a seminar to highlight recent initiatives in UK and Japan, two nations at the cutting edge of research into this important global challenge.

Dementia is one of the major causes of disability and dependency among older people worldwide

This was one of a range of events and activities across February to promote UK-Japan partnerships to tackle dementia – from sharing best practice on care and support measures for dementia friendly communities, demonstrations of how the performing arts can help people living with dementia, to cutting edge research and technology. We have also been celebrating existing partnerships such as the Stirling University and Tokyo Institute for Gerontology collaboration on patient-focussed care, and the World Young Leaders in Dementia, an initiative set up during the UK’s G8 Presidency in 2013.

At the seminar on 20 February, Professor John Gallacher, Director of the UK’s Medical Research Council (MRC) Dementias Platform explained the UK’s rapidly developing infrastructure to accelerate dementia research from the new Dementia Research Institute to address fundamental biology, the Drug Discovery Alliance to develop drug targets ready for trial, through to developing cohorts of patients for early disease trials.

Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive of the Alzheimer’s Society explained the ambition for the new Dementia Research Institute to be a global centre, facilitating international networks and development of global research resources to tackle dementia.

Representatives from the UK’s academic community highlighted current research and Japanese delegates from academia and industry, the Ministry of Health and the Agency for Medical R&D (AMED) discussed shared research challenges, such as:

  • How best to engage frontline staff to support patient involvement in research trials?
  • Are there innovative ways to assess patient experience? How to encourage data sharing to help identify new drug targets rapidly and cheaply?
  • How can public-private partnerships speed up new drug development and help create dementia-friendly environments and products?

There were many ideas for collaboration and information sharing including sharing innovative policies and ways of working, exchanging data, sharing access to cell banks and disease models, and combining expertise on how technology can be applied for better monitoring and care of people with dementia.

Discussing dementia research at the British Embassy Tokyo

Overall there was strong a desire to follow up on the discussions to share international best practice on policy, across different disciplines and between public and private sectors and to identify areas of complementary expertise where joint research activity would be worthwhile.

Japanese delegates welcomed the event as a valuable opportunity to hear more about UK research, and share experience of bringing together public and industry partnerships to accelerate translation of research into clinical applications.

The event follows the signing of cooperation agreement between UK’s MRC and Japan’s AMED on 1 February. Later in the week, delegates also visited Japanese research institutes to learn more about research in Japan. We hope the visit will set the groundwork for new UK-Japan partnerships on research and innovation to tackle dementia.