Vital research to address the growing burden of dementia in Australia has been given a significant boost with $15 million over five years from Colonial Foundation. The grant will enable a new research program – led by researchers at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute and The Royal Melbourne Hospital – to develop new diagnostic tests for the early detection of dementia.
Dementia is a major health challenge in Australia. In 2016, one in 10 people aged over 65 were diagnosed with the condition. Without breakthroughs in diagnostics and therapies, the number of dementia patients is expected to more than double by 2050. Early detection of the disease is crucial because by the time symptoms occur, most of the damage cannot be reversed.
The program of research will take place within the newly established Colonial Foundation Healthy Ageing Centre located at the Institute in the heart of the world-renowned Melbourne Biomedical Precinct.
Institute director Professor Doug Hilton said the centre was the first of its kind in Australia and would provide a platform for harnessing the latest technology and collaborative power of experts from both the Institute and The Royal Melbourne Hospital.
“The new Colonial Foundation Healthy Ageing Centre will enable our leading clinicians, pathologists and researchers to come together with the goal of developing diagnostic tests for the early detection of neurodegenerative conditions that could cause dementia in people as young as 40,” he said.
Professor Hilton said the research team, led by Associate Professor Andrew Webb, would establish a biological model for healthy ageing and profile the molecular information of more than 20,000 patients recruited to the study.
“The important biological insights gained could lead to exciting advances at the frontier of ageing, such as the development of therapies that halt or slow the progression of dementia,” he said.
Professor Christine Kilpatrick, Chief Executive of The Royal Melbourne Hospital, praised Colonial Foundation’s support of the vital project.
“Through the expertise and innovation of the Colonial Foundation Healthy Ageing Centre, we hope to provide doctors across Australia with accredited tools and tests that make a positive difference to the quality of life for patients and their loved ones. This project is an example of Victoria leading the way in the care of Australia’s ageing population,” Professor Kilpatrick said.
CEO of Colonial Foundation Mr André Carstens said Colonial Foundation, the Institute and The Royal Melbourne Hospital had a shared vision for improving the health of all Australians.
“Colonial Foundation wholeheartedly supports this vital project to generate new health strategies that address the growing burden of dementia on our communities. Our shared vision, along with the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute and The Royal Melbourne Hospital, is to enhance healthy ageing for the future benefit and well-being of every Australian,” Mr Carstens said.
At a glance
- Vital dementia research has received $15 million over five years from Colonial Foundation.
- The grant will establish the Colonial Foundation Healthy Ageing Centre led by the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute and The Royal Melbourne Hospital.
- The collaboration aims to develop diagnostic tests for the early detection of dementia in people as young as 40.