University of St Andrews: University welcomes world-leading researchers to ‘watershed’ dementia summit

The University has hosted an international summit bringing together leading brain health and dementia researchers from across the globe with representatives of the pharmaceutical industry and other organisations to form a partnership that could see Scotland leading the world in finding a cure for neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s.

In what has been described as a potential ‘watershed’ in terms of forging vital partnerships between scientists and sponsors in one of the most challenging areas of medicine in the 21st century, the 2022 Brain Health and Dementia Life Sciences Summit provided a forum for discussion on the barriers that exist and how they can be overcome for the benefit of the public, patients, the economy and society.

The two-day conference was led by Professor Frank Gunn-Moore, Head of the School of Biology, Professor Craig Ritchie, Professor of the Psychiatry of Ageing and Director of the Centre for Dementia Prevention, and former First Minister of Scotland, Henry McLeish, Chair of the Scottish Brain Health and Dementia Research Strategy Oversight Board.

Professor Gunn-Moore said: “Scotland is benefitting from a growing reputation in neuroscience, specifically in brain health and dementia research. Recently the Scottish Government made a commitment to the people of Scotland that everyone would have access to a Brain Health Clinic by 2025 with the explicit aim of dramatically reducing the incidence of dementia in our country. This commitment is far ahead of any commitments or actions taken at a national level by any other country or government in the world. This was to be achieved through the creation of Brain Health Scotland – hosted by Alzheimer Scotland.”

Professor Frank Gunn-Moore at the conference
Explaining the significance of scientists working in partnership with the commercial sector to find a cure for neurodegenerative diseases, Professor Gunn-Moore added: “The summit had the singular objective of forming a partnership between the various stakeholders invested in curing Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases. We believe that Scotland can and should lead the world in this endeavour. Finding cures must be supported by optimal clinical trial delivery as well as clinical practice that can accommodate new tests and treatments rapidly and safely.”

During the event, delegates heard from several well-known experts, including Professor David Crossman, Dean of the University of St Andrews School of Medicine and former Chief Scientist for Scotland; Professor Sir Mike Ferguson from the Scottish Drug Discovery Unit based at the University of Dundee; and John Dwyer and George Vradenburg, both of the Davos Alzheimer’s Collaborative.

Sessions were chaired by Professor Gunn-Moore, Professor Ritchie and Mr McLeish as well as by Dr Jennifer Macfarlane, Director of the Scottish Imaging Network: A Platform for Excellence (SINAPSE); Lenny Shawcross, Executive Director of the World Dementia Council; Anna Borthwick, Executive Lead of Brain Health Scotland; Professor Tara Spire Jones of the University of Edinburgh and President of the British Neuroscience Association; and George Davidson of Glaxo Smith Kline.