Largest pooling of resources in dementia research

Parties in the field of dementia have joined forces in the Dementia Research Programme. ZonMw has approved 5 multidisciplinary research consortiums. They will seek answers to questions such as: how can we prevent dementia and how can we improve the quality of life for people with dementia?

1 in 5 people in the Netherlands will develop some form of dementia. The disease can still not be cured or adequately prevented and has a major impact on the quality of life. People will eventually die from dementia. It is the most common cause of death in the Netherlands after cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

This is why researchers are working closely together to achieve a breakthrough in the fight against dementia and in the care for people with dementia. 1 of the projects that they do this in is ZonMw’s 10-year Dementia Research Programme. These consortiums also include healthcare providers, educational institutes, experts by experience, knowledge institutions and the business community (collaborations). Education and training ensure that new knowledge and expertise quickly reach the workplace. The Dementia Research Programme has approved 5 consortiums, each of which has its own theme and focus. They were launched at the end of 2022.

The 5 consortiums

The articles are written in Dutch.

Fundamental Research Consortium 

What disease mechanisms induce the onset and course of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD), frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and vascular dementia? Thanks to collaborations, improved diagnosis and treatment as well as prevention and therapy, can be accelerated.
The project is led by Guus Smit of Amsterdam UMC (VUmc location).

Risk Reduction Consortium – Lifestyle 1

What interventions are effective in preventing dementia in people at increased risk of dementia? The researchers help people at increased risk to improve their lifestyle. The people themselves are in control and decide how they want to do this.
The project is led by Edo Richard of Radboudumc.

Risk Reduction Consortium – Lifestyle 2

New expertise on risk and protective factors for dementia is one of the things being developed within this consortium. In addition, they are identifying which factors are most important in which subgroups (e.g. ethnicity, gender, age, socioeconomic status, education). The results will provide specific indicators for preventive options against dementia.
The project is led by Frank Wolters of Erasmus MC.

Diagnostics (and prognostics) Consortium

How can we improve the diagnostics of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia? According to the researchers, a good diagnosis means: Timely, Accurate and
Personalised (TAP).
The project is led by Wiesje van der Flier of Amsterdam UMC (VUmc location).

Young-Onset Dementia Consortium

A study on the cause, diagnosis, care and treatment of young-onset dementia. The researchers answer a number of research initiatives on the Young-Onset Dementia Research Agenda. In this way, they contribute to the quality of life of this group of patients and their loved ones.
The project is led by Raymond Koopmans of Radboudumc in Nijmegen.

Quality of Life Consortium

One consortium was already launched earlier in 2022 as part of the ‘Risk Reduction - Living with Dementia’ theme. It was funded by Alzheimer Nederland and Health~Holland as part of the National Dementia Strategy. They cooperate closely with ZonMw so that the consortiums are well aligned. This consortium is also monitored by the Dementia Research Programme.

Multidisciplinary consortiums

The consortiums are multidisciplinary in the broadest sense of the word. Abida Durrani is Programme Manager of the Dementia Research Programme. She says: ‘In addition to Medical Sciences, there are also researchers from the Humanities and Social Sciences involved, for instance. These include Psychology, Ethics, Philosophy and data science. Many factors play a role in dementia. If we want to achieve scientific breakthroughs and make a difference to the quality of life of people with dementia, it is important to address the problem from different perspectives and possible solutions.’

Synergy and focus

All the Alzheimer’s centres in the Netherlands are involved in the Dementia Research Programme. ‘We seek to ensure synergy and focus’, says Abida Durrani. ‘We do this by getting the parties in the consortium to work closely together in the design, implementation and execution of various projects. Sometimes more than ten parties are involved in a single consortium. Together they can build a solid research infrastructure. That helps to achieve a breakthrough in the fight against dementia.’

Translation to everyday practice

The programme committee is responsible for the work carried out by the research programme. Jet Bussemaker is the chairperson. In an interview given earlier to ZonMw she mentioned that diversity, i.e. a focus on differences in gender, culture, socioeconomic status is an important common theme for the Dementia Research Programme: ‘The same disease can have a different impact on the lives of people affected. If we take this into account in all steps of research, the results will have impact on all walks of life.’

High ambitions

The multidisciplinary collaboration in the field of dementia was commissioned by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS). Minister Conny Helder (Long-term Care and Sport) says: ‘Our ultimate goal is to rid the world of dementia, which is why we will be investing heavily in this research programme in the years to come. If we want to achieve our goals, cooperation between different research fields, care institutions, the business community, civil society organisations and government bodies is essential. We can only make a difference if we work together.’

National Dementia Strategy

The Dementia Research Programme is part of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport’s 2021-2030 National Dementia Strategy. It makes more precise arrangements for an important section of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport’s mission IV: By 2030, the quality of life of people with dementia must have increased by 25%. See: 2020-2023 Knowledge and Innovation Agenda, drawn up by a coalition of many public and private partners, with the Life Sciences & Health (LSH) sector, also known as Health~Holland, coordinating implementation.

2 consortiums will start later

The grant rounds for 2 consortiums will follow at a later date. These are Promising Innovative Therapies and Valorisation; Integration of Education, Research and Care. See the ZonMw website for the latest information.

Code of conduct

The Code for Dealing with Personal Interests applies to all of ZonMw’s grant rounds. This ensures that there is no bias in the decision-making process. 1 of the main applicants is also a board member of ZonMw, which is why additional control measures have been taken for this grant round.