The Department of Health and Janssen UK have launched a new prize fund to help encourage innovation in dementia care.

The prize fund was last night launched by the NHS in partnership with Janssen Healthcare Innovation. Healthcare organisations and professionals caring for people with dementia are invited to help shape a new NHS Innovation Challenge by identifying the most significant issues they face on a day-to-day basis.

Applicants will be encouraged to respond to the challenge with new initiatives to help re-shape and improve the way dementia care is delivered, in order to deliver the best possible care.

An expert panel comprising of a mix of champions of innovation in the health service, including NHS clinicians and managers, and innovation leaders from academia, industry and other sectors will be responsible for assessing submissions to the challenge and recommending the winner(s). 

The best entries will be awarded a share of a prize fund total of £150,000, which will be funded by Janssen Healthcare Innovation. The firm, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, is currently developing a new Alzheimer’s drug with Pfizer in the form of bapineuzumab, although poor trial results may mean the drug could not reach the market.

Last year, Janssen Alzheimer Immunotherapy, together with Pfizer, established the ‘Alzheimer’s Challenge 2012’ in the USA. The Challenge calls for inventive concepts to help improve the diagnostic identification and tracking of Alzheimer’s disease.

Growing problem for the NHS

There are now 800,000 people with dementia in the UK and there are estimated to be hundreds of thousands of family and friends acting as primary carers. The cost of caring for people with dementia is £23 billion a year, and it is predicted to grow to £27 billion by over the next five years.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “It’s no secret that dementia is one of the biggest challenges that we currently face in the UK.

“Innovation sits at the very heart of the way the health service works. Projects that foster innovation play an important role in driving forward progress and I look forward to hearing the ideas in response to the dementia research challenge.”

Marco Mohwinckel, partner at Janssen Healthcare Innovation, said: “Janssen Healthcare Innovation is committed to exploring and developing novel ways of delivering healthcare to improve patient outcomes, particularly in areas of significant need such as dementia.

“We are delighted to be the first industry partner to support the NHS in these important innovation challenges. We hope this initiative will help identify forward-thinking solutions to help transform care for people with dementia and better support their caregivers.

“Janssen, a pharmaceutical company within the Johnson & Johnson family, also has a long-standing and on-going commitment to neuroscience. We are dedicated to addressing and solving some of the most important unmet needs and improving patient outcomes in this field.”