Dementia Research News, Issue 23, December 2018


Director’s update

Janice Besch
NNIDR Director

Welcome to the final edition of Dementia Research News for 2018. It's been a busy and exciting year for NNIDR and on behalf of the team here, I'd like to wish you all a well-deserved happy holiday season, filled with laughter, family and rest.

In this edition, we're pleased to share the full international keynote speaker program for the Australian Dementia Forum 2019, an exciting connection to the $1 million Innovation Grant recipients, and a detailed profile of Dr Brad Sutherland - a dedicated Boosting Dementia Research Leadership Fellow from the University of Tasmania.

As the year comes to an end, we're continuing our work on the revised Strategic Roadmap and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Dementia Research Roadmap. I'd like to thank the countless people with which we've consulted in carrying out these projects - particularly Dr Kate Smith and her team in Perth, who coordinated consultations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across the country. The release of these two vital strategies is expected in early 2019.

Preparations for the Australian Dementia Forum 2019 are in full swing, with three international keynote speakers confirmed. We're looking forward to welcoming Professor Carol Brayne (UK), Dr Alexandre Kalache (Brazil) and Dr Jeff Williamson (US) to Hobart next June for what promises to be an exciting program. Registrations are due to open in January, and abstract submissions are now open.

I'd also like to extend my congratulations to the team at Dementia Australia, for the formalisation of their partnership with Dementia Alliance International at Parliament House last month. The work that these two organisations undertake in advocating for people living with dementia is vital to our community and in ensuring optimal outcomes. Dementia Alliance International is an organisation whose focus is entirely on advancing the interests of people with dementia, by people with dementia.  As such, it is a powerful source of information and advice on what is important to people with dementia and what research impact might mean to them. We look forward to seeing this partnership unfold in the future, as we all work towards greater understanding and awareness of living well with dementia.

We're pleased to have delivered on the first NNIDR Development Webinar this month. Our thanks go to Mark Hochman for sharing his insights on research impact, as well as to our team of NHMRC-ARC Dementia Research Development Fellows and Boosting Dementia Research Leadership Fellow Dr Lee-Fay Low for spearheading this program. The next webinar will be held in March 2019, with Associate Professor Biance Brijnath sharing her experience of including culturally and linguistically diverse participants in dementia research. 

Once again, I'd like to thank you all for your dedication, hard work and support this year. It's truly a privilege to see the wonderful research being undertaken through the Boosting Dementia Research Initiative. You've all helped foster a community of people united in their aim to improve outcomes for people living with dementia. However you choose to celebrate this festive season, I hope you take the time to be with loved ones and reflect on the incredible achievements of 2018. We very much look forward to seeing you next year, and continuing to work together.

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Announcing our ADF2019 international keynote speakers

The ADF2019 Program Committee is pleased to announce that Dr Jeff Williamson of Wake Forest Baptist Health (US) and Dr Alexandre Kalache of the International Centre for Policies on Ageing (Brazil) join Professor Carol Brayne as international keynote speakers at the Forum in Hobart.

Professor Carol Brayne CBE 

Professor Brayne is lead principal investigator in the group of MRC CFA Studies which have informed and will continue to inform national policy and scientific understanding of dementia in whole populations. She has been responsible for training programmes in epidemiology and public health for under and postgraduates since the early nineties.

Dr Alexandre Kalache, MD PhD 

Dr Kalache is a world leading authority on ageing. He pioneered the concept of "active ageing" and developed the Global Movement on Age Friendly Cities at the World Health Organisation (WHO) as head of the Ageing and Life Course Program, and now leads the International Centre for Policies on Ageing, Brazil. Prior to his appointment at WHO, Dr Kalache held academic and teaching positions at the Universities of Oxford and London.

Dr Jeff Williamson 

Dr Williamson is Professor of Medicine and Chief of the Section on Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine at Wake Forest University (WFU) and Executive Director of Transitional and Supportive Care for Wake Forest Baptist Health. His current focus is identifying, modifying and testing care delivery models in anticipation of Wake Forest Baptist Health system’s move toward value based care delivery.

Abstract submissions are now open for oral and poster presentations, and roundtable sessions. Abstract submissions will close 11.59pm AEST 1 March 2019

Click here to submit your abstract.

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Dementia Australia announces Innovation Grant

Three NNIDR affiliated research scientists have been awarded a total of $2 million funding for innovative, new research ideas which utilise technologies and advance the field of dementia research.

The inaugural Innovation Grant was awarded by the Dementia Australia Research Foundation and Yulgilbar Alzheimer’s Research Program. In an exciting development, the Innovation Grant was doubled to $2 million funding after submissions impressed the judging panel, and the decision was made to award three grants, rather than one.

NNIDR Director Janice Besch, welcomed the announcement and said that the field of dementia research was rapidly expanding to deliver better outcomes for people living with dementia.

’Five years ago, funding for dementia research was stable but static, with few new researchers able to secure vital funding for their research programs. Today, we’re seeing Government increase past funding levels, as well as an increase in the number and quality of research fellowships and projects,’ said Ms Besch.

‘There are more novel programs of research being put forward for funding, and new funding is being attracted to the field.’

Professor Perminder Sachdev

A $1 million Innovation Grant was awarded to a group headed by Boosting Dementia Research Initiative Grant recipient Professor Perminder Sachdev at the University of New South Wales.

Professor Sachdev and his team are utilising nanoparticles to allow drug treatments to cross the blood-brain barrier and target amyloid and tau particles.

Professor Sachdev has previously received two Government Boosting Dementia grants under the European Union Joint Programme – Neurodegenerative Diseases Research Program – a targeted approach in securing Australian involvement in multinational collaborative projects.

‘Perminder is one of Australia’s dementia research leaders and the Innovation Grant is well-deserved’,’ said Ms Besch.

‘The Government’s Boosting Dementia Research Initiative has positioned him well for this success, helping to build his research program. Perminder is collaborating with nanoscientists who might not otherwise have become involved in solving the challenge of dementia, and there is a strong likelihood of surprising breakthroughs.’

Professor Simon Bell

One of the additional $500,000 Grants was awarded to Boosting Dementia Research Leadership Fellow Professor Simon Bell at Monash University.

Professor Bell will collaborate with colleagues from the United States, United Kingdom and Hong Kong to evaluate health data from hundreds of thousands of people, to improve medicine management, safety and effectiveness for people with dementia.

‘With his salary largely funded through the Boosting Dementia Research Initiative for a period of four years to optimise medicine use amongst dementia patients, this new, independently sourced grant will expand his research to include evaluation of a large-scale international cohort,‘ said Ms Besch.

‘Through optimised medicines use, people with dementia will be able to live more independently for much longer periods, enjoying family and community life.’

Professor Chennupati Jagadish, AC

The second $500,000 Grant was awarded to Professor Chennupati Jagadish to undertake a world-first project combining technologies in stem cell research with artificial intelligence to develop ‘mini-brains’. Stem cells taken from people living with Alzheimer’s disease and a control group unaffected by the disease will allow Professor Jagadish and his team to model brain function and then apply computational analysis to predict parameters which promote normal brain function.

‘Jagadish’s project is one of a number that have been discussed and developed through NNIDR’s Stem Cells and Organoids Special Interest Group, and so it is particularly pleasing to see it funded through the Innovation Grants call,’ said Ms Besch.

‘Such groups are strongly supported by NNIDR to brainstorm and coordinate dementia research opportunities. Participants have reported that they go beyond the kind of networking that happens at research conferences. Conversations develop over months and years into short and long term proposals and projects. Outcomes include sharing of facilities, joint publications, health guidelines, and, as in this case, large scale new projects that attract additional funding to the field.’

‘We don’t often hear about one million dollar grants being awarded to high risk projects and researchers being given the opportunity to decide the timeframe over which the spend the funds. Moreover, you never hear of the available funding being doubled at the last minute, so as to bring more great ideas to fruition,’ said Ms Besch.

‘The Innovation Grants are rightly named, and we hope will lead others who wish to make a difference and who are in a position to fund research, will be led to consider such a novel, and nimble, approach.’

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Dementia Australia and Dementia Alliance International sign MOU


Dementia Australia and Dementia Alliance International formalised its relationship last month, recognising both organisations' alignment in their purpose to promote awareness and understanding of dementia, and their shared commitment to advocate for the autonomy, independence and human rights of people living with dementia. 

Dementia Australia CEO, Maree McCabe says the two organisations share an important vision.

'We share a commitment and vision for a world where people living with dementia are valued, included and receive the care and support they choose,' Ms McCabe said.

Dementia Alliance International is the peak organisation with membership exclusively for people with a medically confirmed diagnosis of any type of dementia from all around the world. Dementia Alliance International CEO, Kate Swaffer AO, says that the two organisations will advocate together to increase awareness and understanding of dementia in Australia, and internationally.

'Together we will liaise on global dementia policy issues, to ensure our policies and programs are aligned to the WHO Global Dementia Action Plan,' Ms Swaffer said.

NNIDR would like to congratulate Dementia Australia and Dementia Alliance International on this historic partnership and their dedicated work in advocating for the rights of people living with dementia.

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Fellow profile - Dr Brad Sutherland, University of Tasmania

Dr Brad Sutherland
Photo courtesy of University of Tasmania

A cell originally discovered in the 1870s but largely overlooked by researchers until recently may hold the key to new therapy options for Alzheimer’s disease.

Pericytes are cells only found in capillaries. In the brain, they maintain blood flow, supply energy (oxygen and glucose) and contribute to the protective blood-brain barrier.

Dr Brad Sutherland of the University of Tasmania – a Boosting Dementia Research Leadership Fellow – is researching whether pericyte dysfunction could contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

“We know there is a large vascular, or blood flow, component to several risk factors for Alzheimer’s. I’m aiming to find out if pericytes die in Alzheimer’s disease, resulting in energy deficit and memory problems,” says Dr Sutherland.

This is novel research, with very little published to date. It is also a new direction for Dr Sutherland, building on his strong background in stroke research and the effect of blocked blood flow on brain function.

“It’s a very attractive side step into a new field. Blood flow deficits seem to be entangled in so many neurological disorders, so I really like the prospect of being able to apply stroke research in this area.”

The research has three components: examining human post mortem brains to see if pericyte cells have changed in people who had Alzheimer’s; studying pericyte cells in dishes and how they react to different factors such as amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimer’s; and monitoring mouse models to understand the development of the disease as they age and die.

While the four-year research project has only been underway since January 2018, early indications appear to support Dr Sutherland’s hypothesis.

“In the first year, we’ve had some interesting data from the animal model. We’re seeing that in post-symptomatic mice with high levels of amyloid, the pericyte cells die. These are only preliminary results so we need to continue to add to the dataset and find out what causes this in follow up studies.”

The Boosting Dementia Research Leadership Fellowship has not only enabled Dr Sutherland to focus on this new area of research, but also to make valued connections to take this work forward.

“It’s allowed me to meet a whole group of researchers I wouldn’t otherwise have been able to meet, and establish collaborations with people with similar and complementary skills, to answer questions we might not have been able to answer otherwise.”

In addition to Dr Sutherland’s Fellowship, he has recently been awarded a complementary National Health and Medical Research Council Project Grant, enabling him to extend this research work through to 2022 – wherever that may lead.

“I follow the science. It can lead you up paths you never dreamed of. Even if your hypothesis is disproved, you can end up on paths that are really interesting. But if we can find the mechanism that causes this vascular dysfunction, then I could see myself working with chemists to target pericytes to enable them to keep functioning as they should.

“Given Alzheimer’s is the second leading cause of death, it would be transformative if this research was successful in showing this was the cause, and we could unlock new therapeutic opportunities to slow the progression or onset of this disease.”

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NNIDR Development Webinar Series

Special thanks go to Mark Hochman, PhD who joined us for the first Development Webinar this month to share his insights with NHMRC-ARC Dementia Research Development Fellows and early career researchers on how best to indicate and highlight evidence of impact in health related research.

If you missed the webinar, but are interested in catching up on Mark's insights, please contact us to request a copy of the presentation.

The next edition of the NNIDR Development Webinar: Inclusion of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Participants (CALD) and perspectives in dementia research with Associate Professor Bianca Brijnath will take place 1pm (AEDT) Tuesday 5 March 2019. Registration details will be shared shortly.

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Meet the NNIDR team - Alecia Slocombe, Events & Membership Officer

Alecia Slocombe
Events & Membership Officer

Alecia is one of the newest additions to the NNIDR team, and we're thrilled to have her on board to management the membership and events program. We caught up with her recently and found out more about the driving force behind NNIDR events and membership.

'Events have been a big part of my career - I've always enjoyed client-facing roles and building relationships,' says Alecia.

'I've been involved in organising networking events, supporting music tours and organising student conferences.'

Alecia is thrilled to be joining the NNIDR team and engaging with funded researchers, fellows, and the NNIDR membership at-large. 

'Being able to contribute to the great work being done in research in my own little way is so rewarding. All of the people I've met here are really passionate about their work and it's inspiring.'

When she's not organising the Australian Dementia Forum, Alecia can be found at the local markets, supporting small businesses. She's also a huge fan of Christmas, and has been bringing holiday cheer to the NNIDR office in Canberra.

'I'm also nesting due to a recent move, and just came back from a cruise - my favourite kind of holiday.'

We're so thrilled to have Alecia on the team. You'll get to know her more in the coming year, as she manages ADF2019 and our Membership program. 

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Current funding rounds

The Development Grant scheme for funding commencing in 2020 is now open in RGMS and will close 5:00pm (AEDT) 6 February 2019 with minimum data due 23 January 2019.

The Development Grant scheme provides financial support to individual researchers and/or research teams to undertake health and medical research within Australia at the proof-of-concept stage that specifically drives towards a commercial outcome within a foreseeable timeframe.

The Investigator Grant scheme is now open for funding commencing in 2020 will open in RGMS on 5 December 2018. Applications will close 5:00pm (AEDT) 6 February 2019 with minimum data due 16 January 2019.

Investigator Grants consolidate separate fellowship and research support into one grant scheme that provides the highest-performing researchers at all career stages with funding for their salary (if required) and a significant research support package.

These grants provide the investigator with flexibility to pursue important new research directions as they arise and to form collaborations as needed, rather than being restricted to the scope of a specific research project.

The Targeted Call for Research into Nutrition in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples is now open in RGMS and will close 5.00pm (AEDT) 6 March 2019, with minimum data due 20 February 2019.

Quality evidence generated from this Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander led research will allow for better planning, funding and implementation of policies and services to improve nutrition at the individual, community or system level.

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Upcoming events

Australian & New Zealand Society for Geriatric Medicine Annual Scientific Meeting | Adelaide | 13-15 May 2019
The 2010 ANZSGM Conference theme Geriatric Medicine – Best care to the end will focus on evidence and innovation in the care of older adults and in end of life care. The program will also feature updates in cardiovascular and neurological diseases in older patients.
For more information, visit the conference website.

Australian Dementia Forum 2019 | Hobart | 13-14 June 2019
The ADF2019 theme Shining a light on the impact of dementia research, will examine how best to maximise the impact and benefit of dementia research to the whole community - for people living with dementia, their families and carers, and those at risk of dementia - through accelerated research translation.
For more information, visit the conference website.

Alzheimer’s Association International Conference | Los Angeles | 12-18 July 2019
International investigators, clinicians and care providers will gather at AAIC2019 to share the latest study results, theories and discoveries that will help bring the world closer to breakthroughs in dementia science.
For more information, visit the conference website.

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Useful references

Pathways to impact
Medical Research Council (UK) - Guidance for applicants
Guidance for writing a pathways to impact statement as part of the grant application process.
Click here to read more.

Pathways to Impact
UK Research and Innovation
Tips for articulating impact from UK Research and Innovation.
Click here to read more.

Research Quality and Impact
University of Sussex
Information from the Research, Quality and Impact team at the University of Sussex on tracking and achieve research impact.
Click here to read more.

Impact toolkit
Economic and Social Research Council (UK)
This toolkit is aimed at social science researchers applying for and receiving funding from ESRC. We define impact and identify the principles you should be aware of when applying for funding, and provide advice and guidance to help you communicate your work.
Click here to view toolkit. 

Making an impact
Canadian Academy of Health Sciences Assessment Report
Click here to read the report.

Panel criteria and working methods
Research Excellence Framework (UK)
This document sets out the assessment criteria and working methods of the main and sub-panels for the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF).
Click here to read the document.

Research impact: a narrative review
Trisha Greenhalgh, James Raftery, Steve Hanney and Matthew Glover
BMC Medicine
Greenhalgh, Raftery, Hanney and Glover review the strengths and limitations of six established approaches to measuring the outcomes of research - Payback, Research Impact Framework, Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, monetisation, societal impact assessment, and UK Research Excellence Framework.
Click here to read the article in full.

Global, regional and national age-sex-specific mortality and life expectancy, 1950-2017: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017
The Lancet
Assessments of age-specific mortality and life expectancy have been done by the UN Population Division, Department of Economics and Social Affairs (UNPOP), the United States Census Bureau, WHO, and as part of previous iterations of the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study (GBD). Previous iterations of the GBD used population estimates from UNPOP, which were not derived in a way that was internally consistent with the estimates of the numbers of deaths in the GBD. The present iteration of the GBD, GBD 2017, improves on previous assessments and provides timely estimates of the mortality experience of populations globally.
Click here to read the study in full.

Impact of patient and public involvement on enrolment and retention in clinical trials: systematic review and meta-analysis
British Medical Journal
This review investigates the impact of patient and public involvement (PPI) on rates of enrolment and retention in clinical trials and explore how this varies with the context and nature of PPI.
Click here to read the review in full.

Person centered care that includes antipsychotic review reduces agitation in dementia patients, finds study
British Medical Journal
Using a person centred care programme that includes a review of the use of antipsychotics significantly reduced agitation in patients with dementia living in care homes.
Click here to read the article in full.

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Call for papers

Have you published a research paper on dementia lately? Have you just had a paper accepted for publication? Let us know and we’ll include a link to it in our next issue! Simply send a link to your paper by email

Share your story

If you have a story to share on dementia, whether research or personal experience, please contact the NNIDR Communications Officer, Bojana Kos by email or phone 02 6217 9172. Your story may be published in the next newsletter, or used as vignettes in Institute-related communication materials, or created into a feature story and pitched to the media.

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