Hunt for dementia genes awarded Government funding

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Identifying the right genes involved in dementia could be the breakthrough researchers are looking for to treat the debilitating disease, which is expected to affect 900,000 Australians by 2050.

Two major Australian dementia studies will receive a share of more than $2.6 million in Australian Government funding to be part of the European Union Joint Program for Neurodegenerative Disease, which was announced today by the Minister for Health, Sussan Ley.

The European Program, which includes a consortia of international collaborators including Australia, supports research projects on neurodegenerative diseases including risk and protective factors, longitudinal cohort approaches and advanced experimental models.

The two successful Australian studies, which will contribute to the international collaboration of research into dementia, will both be managed by Australian researcher Professor Perminder Sachdev and his team from the University of New South Wales.

“These two major studies will focus on understanding the genetic basis of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias,” Prof Sachdev says.

“Understanding the genetics of Alzheimer’s disease is one of the best ways of improving our knowledge of the underlying mechanisms of disease development.

“We know that genes play a major role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease, but we have only identified genes that account for less than half of the genetic risk of developing this disease.

“This funding will allow us to more effectively understand the “missing” heritability and identify the genes involved in dementia. It will also enable us to partner with large European research consortia, thereby greatly enhancing the power of the investigations.”

Director of the NHMRC National Institute for Dementia Research, Professor John McCallum, welcomed the Government’s announcement which is part of the $200 million commitment to dementia research, ensuring Australia remains at the forefront of international best practice.

“Australia’s participation in international dementia research collaborations and networks through joint funding ventures means we can be part of the big teams finding answers to the key questions in dementia research,” Prof McCallum says.

“Australians have been international leaders in dementia research and we need to ensure we remain at the forefront of international efforts. This means being part of a world conversation to discover new therapies and find prevention methods to treat this disease.”

As part of the $200 million commitment to dementia research, the Government has also announced $35.6 million for NHMRC Dementia Research Team Grants, and $43.7 million in funding for the NHMRC-ARC Dementia Research Development Fellowships, which were made earlier this year.

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