Leading dementia figures from universities, pharmaceutical companies and charities have identified six gaps in dementia research that present new opportunities to speed up the search for the first life-changing treatment for the condition.

The work, funded by Alzheimer’s Research UK, calls for a fresh focus on how research is conducted, including new approaches to clinical trials and incentives for scientists to increase collaboration to bring about potential treatments faster.

It lays out six specific opportunities to accelerate dementia research, including Investigating the effects of newly identified genetic risk factors on disease processes and improving understanding of why some brain nerve cells are more resilient than others.

Other gaps identified were bolstering early drug discovery work to identify the most promising new treatment targets and ensuring the right selection of participants for clinical trials, as well as improving ways to measure how effectively drugs are working in people and finding ways to begin clinical trials in people decades earlier than we do today.

Professor Nick Fox, group leader at the UK DRI said that initiatives like the UK Dementia Research Institute are “helping bring together researchers across centres and disciplines but with the number of dementia researchers still small compared to other disease areas, collaborative working is essential for us to make progress at pace.

He continued to say, “There’s also clear need to think carefully about how we do translational research in dementia. With limited funding comes limited shots on goal, so we must be confident we’re supporting and incentivising quality research. This paper outlines the need to focus efforts on the most important mechanisms driving these diseases, on ensuring that findings are robust and on designing our clinical trials in the smartest way to test potential new medicines.”

Dementia is the leading cause of death in the UK. The condition affects 850,000 people and costs the UK economy £26bn each year.

The review is published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia.