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Building a movement
to fight back against dementia

hilary evans

Hilary Evans
Chief Executive, Alzheimer’s Research UK

Dementia is talked about in public more today than ever before, but are we having the right conversation? The condition has risen up the political agenda, and progress is being made to tackle it – yet misunderstanding persists. Still dismissed as a natural by-product of age, perceptions of dementia too often breed fatalism – a belief that nothing can be done. But we are not powerless. We can defeat dementia, and your support is helping us fight it both in the lab and in the public consciousness.

Over the past year we’ve seen incredible growth, with a 24% increase in income. More of you are joining the fightback, allowing us to invest a record £17.9m into our charitable activities. Our growing army of supporters is helping power world-class science with the greatest potential, from our Drug Discovery Alliance, working to fast-track promising ideas into new treatments, to our Global Clinical Trials Fund.

This year we were proud to announce a £50m commitment, our largest ever to a single research initiative, by becoming a founding partner of the UK Dementia Research Institute. This, alongside our major strategic and response-mode initiatives, forms the cornerstone of a national and international research effort to transform the lives of people with dementia.

In January 2016 #sharetheorange became our most successful digital awareness campaign yet. It had a simple message: dementia is caused by diseases, and diseases can be defeated through research. This message was reinforced at the start of 2017 by former Prime Minister David Cameron when he joined Alzheimer’s Research UK as our new President. As we look to the challenge ahead of us, we know that Mr Cameron – with his strong track record of supporting dementia research while in Government – will help us to deliver on our ambition.

Today 850,000 people in the UK are living with dementia, and for each of them the impact is huge and personal, with untold heartache for families nationwide. These are the people who inspire us and drive our mission, and at Alzheimer’s Research UK we are relentless in our pursuit of it. We are building a movement to take the fightback to dementia: together we can change the future.


Research will change the lives of people with dementia. Thanks to you, Alzheimer’s Research UK is investing in the most pioneering science with the greatest chance of success, aimed at finding new treatments and preventions for dementia as quickly as possible. This year your support has allowed us to:

  • Establish teams of talented scientists at our world-first £30m Drug Discovery Alliance, a network of Drug Discovery Institutes in Cambridge, Oxford and London. These researchers are now working on promising projects to develop new treatments.
  • Become a founding partner in the UK Dementia Research Institute, announcing plans to commit £50m to the Government-backed project. Funded by the UK Government, Alzheimer’s Research UK and Alzheimer’s Society, the Institute represents the largest ever joint effort in UK dementia research and a huge statement of intent to do more for people with dementia.
  • Fund our first grant through our Global Clinical Trials Fund, awarding £155,000 to investigate the effects of aspirin and omega-3 fatty acids in people at high risk of dementia.
  • Help launch the Dementia Discovery Fund, a unique initiative which brings together investors to fund early-stage drug discovery work around the globe.
  • Expand the Dementia Consortium. This £4.5m partnership brings together Alzheimer’s Research UK, MRC Technology and five pharmaceutical companies to fund drug discovery projects, with three new partners welcomed in 2016 and two promising new research projects funded.
research grants infographic
published papers infographic

Introducing our new
Chief Scientific Officer

Dr David Reynolds joined Alzheimer’s Research UK in June as Chief Scientific Officer, a role that sees him directing our research strategy. With a strong background in the pharmaceutical industry, David has a wealth of experience in neuroscience and drug development.

dr david reynolds

"Throughout my career as a researcher I’ve always had a keen eye on the end game, which is to produce a new medicine that can change lives. Our understanding of the diseases that drive dementia has advanced hugely in recent years, and I believe the potential for new treatments and preventions provides real hope. Alzheimer’s Research UK’s determined focus, combined with the backing of our amazing supporters, means we can pursue the best ideas and make the kind of progress that can truly benefit people with dementia."

Dr David Reynolds


The battle against dementia has two fronts. While our scientists work to defeat dementia in the lab, Alzheimer’s Research UK is changing public understanding – helping confront stigma and galvanise a social movement to support research. This year we:

  • Launched #sharetheorange, our most successful digital awareness campaign yet. The film, animated by Aardman and featuring actor Christopher Eccleston, underlined the message that dementia is caused by physical diseases that can be beaten through research. Nearly 12 million have watched the film.
  • Helped create the world’s largest crowdsourced database of spatial navigation through mobile game Sea Hero Quest, developed with Deutsche Telekom and researchers at UCL (University College London) and the University of East Anglia. With over 2.4m downloads, players provided the equivalent of 1,170 years of laboratory data in two weeks – offering a benchmark for understanding navigation problems in dementia and improving diagnosis.
  • Developed A Walk Through Dementia, a virtual reality Android app offering a unique insight into the varied symptoms of dementia. Created with the help of people with dementia, UCL researchers, Google and VR experts VISYON, the app was one of Wired magazine’s top 100 of the year.
  • Expanded our reach to help young people understand dementia, launching a dedicated children’s website – Dementia Explained – with support from broadcaster Edith Bowman, and backing from Legal & General and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. We also launched Brain Box, a learning programme to develop school students’ scientific skills.
changing perceptions infographic
changing perceptions infographic

Confronting misunderstanding
using an orange

In January our online #sharetheorange campaign set out to fight the enduring misconception that dementia is just a by-product of old age. The 90-second stop-motion film features an orange gradually stripped away to demonstrate how Alzheimer’s and other dementias physically attack the brain. The animation explains that through damage from disease, the brain of a person with Alzheimer’s can weigh around 140 grams less than a healthy brain – about the weight of an orange. The film was fronted by actor Christopher Eccleston, who lost his father Ronnie to vascular dementia following a 14-year struggle with the disease.

"We have to think differently about dementia. We have to stop believing dementia is an inevitability; something that simply happens to us all as we grow older. If we don’t, we’re never going to truly fight it. Dementia is caused by diseases and diseases can be beaten. We’ve tamed diseases like cancer and heart disease and a diagnosis of either is no longer a certain death sentence. People with dementia deserve this same hope."

Christopher Eccleston


Dementia is our greatest medical challenge, and government action is critical for defeating it. We are committed to securing positive action from government to drive research progress and improve lives. Our campaigning work keeps dementia research high on the political agenda and this year, thanks to you, we:

  • Campaigned successfully for dementia to be named a ‘test case’ for the government’s Accelerated Access Review into the way new medicines are made available to patients. With more Alzheimer’s trials making progress, we began a project to understand how future dementia treatments might be taken up by the NHS, in an effort to ensure new medicines reach people quickly.
  • Supported Public Health England to develop a pilot programme for the NHS Health Check for over-40s, introducing dementia risk reduction information for people in mid-life.
  • Helped shape the government’s plan for achieving the Prime Minister’s Challenge on Dementia 2020 – a five-year strategy for tackling dementia. This blueprint for action set out ambitious targets for increasing research investment, boosting diagnosis rates and helping more people with dementia take part in research.
  • Highlighted the toll of dementia for people who care for family members with the condition. Our report, Dementia in the Family: the impact on carers, underlined the need for treatments capable of reducing the need for care.

Putting the spotlight
on carers

Our Dementia in the Family report called attention to the realities of daily life for carers looking after loved ones with dementia, and it drew a huge response from people with similar experiences. Actress Phyllida Law, who looked after her mother Meg after dementia took hold, helped launch the report, which used in-depth case studies to reveal how dementia changes family relationships, causes social isolation, and affects carers’ health and finances.

"When you’re worn out because you haven’t slept, you can be in danger of losing your temper, and that’s very hard. I wasn’t as isolated as some people, and I was lucky because I had help. But caring for Ma, you couldn’t leave the house without taking her with you, so you did feel very stuck. A treatment that could help people like my mother would be unimaginable. It’s extraordinary to think of the advances that have been made for diseases like cancer, and it would be wonderful to see that for dementia."

Phyllida Law


Our pioneering work is powered by thousands of dedicated supporters – every donation takes us a step closer to a world free from the fear, harm and heartbreak of dementia. Thanks to our committed donors and fundraisers, this year we:

  • Saw a 22% increase in donations, with a growing army of people joining the fightback against dementia, including 20,000 people who now give regularly to our work.
  • Launched two successful fundraising initiatives with parkrun, receiving pledges of over £100,000 through our Donate Your Time campaign, and inspiring nearly 4,000 people to register for our 100km Running Down Dementia challenge.
  • Were humbled by the many people who chose to leave gifts in their Wills. From small sums through to our largest ever gift in a Will of £1million, every donation makes a difference, with one in three of our research projects funded by gifts in Wills.
  • Passed the £1million mark with our Insight 46 Giving Club. This initiative now has 16 members, each personally contributing to a unique study, begun 70 years ago, that is now offering new insight into the risk factors and early signs of dementia.
  • Began exciting new partnerships with corporate supporters such as World Duty Free and Wickes, who demonstrated incredible enthusiasm for our cause. We are hugely grateful to colleagues at all the organisations who have supported our work, including AXA Insurance, Dyson, The Perfume Shop and many others.
your support infographic your support infographic

An emotional song to help power research

When 16-year-old Harry Gardner’s nan Maureen could no longer recognise him, he coped with his shock and distress by putting the experience to music. The resulting song, Not Alone – Song for Alzheimer’s, prompted an overwhelming response from the public and raised more than £8,000. Harry’s heart-breaking song even caught the eye of the Prime Minister when he was honoured with a Points of Light award, and the teenager has since been named a Champion of Alzheimer’s Research UK in recognition of his efforts.

"I was aware my nan had Alzheimer’s but I wasn’t aware how severe the condition would be – I thought it would only be short-term memory loss. But when I visited and saw her lying in a dark room, with no expression, it really hit me hard. The first thing I did when I got home was sit at the piano and get my emotions into words. I was nervous to post the song at first but raising awareness of Alzheimer’s disease has become very important to me, and the response has been amazing."

Harry Gardner


With no government funding for our research, we rely on public donations to be able to fund our work. In 2015/16 our income rose to a record £22m, fuelled by a 22% increase in voluntary donations – allowing us to invest more than ever into our charitable activities.

finances infographic
finances infographic


Our work is only possible because of the generosity and commitment of our many thousands of supporters across the country. We would like to thank everyone who has made a donation of any size – you are helping to power research that will transform the lives of people with dementia.

These supporters and organisations have made an exceptional contribution to our work (click to expand list):

We would like to thank everyone who has remembered us through a gift in their Will, and all those who have donated and chosen to remain anonymous.

View our full Annual Report and Accounts

Thank you to our Insight 46 members:

David Barnett
Julian & Jenny Cazalet
Former Partners of Cazenove & Co
Arthur Drysdale
Ehud Eliashar, in memory of Toni Eliashar
The Hogs Back Brewery Charitable Trust
The Hoover Foundation
Iceland Foods Charitable Foundation

The Eric and Margaret Kinder Charitable Trust
Edward & Lesley Lambourne
Mark Loveday
The Nigel Scott Will Trust
Michael Power
Hugh Priestley
The Ranworth Trust 1985

"We desperately
need a breakthrough"

Former teacher Janet Allen was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease six years ago, at the age of 60. Liz, the eldest of Janet’s three daughters, explains:

"Mum’s deterioration was quite gradual for the first two or three years after her diagnosis, but since then there’s been a steep decline. She can now no longer be left alone for more than a few minutes, and we worry about Dad who is her chief carer. He’s a rock and after 44 years of marriage, he still loves Mum to bits. For the whole family, there’s the constant sadness as we grieve for the loss of my amazing, loving and caring mum and witness the undignified and distressing symptoms of the disease progress. A new treatment would be the most tremendous relief I can imagine. I don’t want a single other person to have to experience this cruel disease – we desperately need a breakthrough to defeat dementia. Thank you to everyone who supports this amazing charity."

Liz Allen