Dementia Research News, Issue 28 - November 2019

Director's update

Welcome to the latest edition of Dementia Research News. As the end of the year approaches, the NNIDR team has been busy working on plans for the new year, including the Australia Dementia Forum 2020 in Adelaide. I'm so pleased that we're able to open early bird registrations to this fantastic event in this newsletter. The ADF2020 Program Committee is putting together a wonderful program for you all, including our keynote speakers Professor Gill Livingston (United Kingdom), Assistant Professor Shane Liddelow (United States), Professor Suvarna Alladi (India) and Dr Eddy Strivens (Australia). In other news, I wish to offer my congratulations to Associate Professor Lee-Fay Low, Dr Annica Barcenilla-Wong and Associate Professor Bianca Brijnath, for publishing their paper on culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) inclusion in dementia research in the Medical Journal of Australia. Increasing diversity and the representation of CALD communities in research is vital to ensuring improved health outcomes for people living with dementia, at any age, and forms the basis of NNIDR’s CALD Dementia Research Action Plan to be released early in the new year. Well done to Lee-Fay, Annica, Bianca and their teams on this achievement.

I'm also pleased to congratulate Dr Carol Dobson-Stone on her travel fellowship to attend the Alzheimer's Association International Conference (AAIC) in 2020. Carol was awarded the fellowship for her AAIC Satellite Symposium lightning poster round presentation 'Identification Of A Novel Gene Causing Frontotemporal Dementia – Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis' and will travel to Amsterdam with fellow Australian researchers, Dr Louise Lavrencic and Associate Professor Peter van Wijngaarden. Carol's was one of numerous fascinating presentations at the AAIC Satellite Symposium in Sydney and I'd like to thank everyone who represented Australia at this engaging and informative international scientific meeting.

Finally, I'd like to encourage all dementia researchers, policy makers, health industry professionals and advocates to have a look at the Australian Clinical Trials Alliance (ACTA) Consumer Involvement and Engagement Toolkit here. The Toolkit was developed by ACTA, CT:IQ and a working group of consumers, researchers and research organisations to improve knowledge for consumer involvement and engagement at all stages of clinical trials. This represents an increased focus on what it means to involve consumers in research. Though focused on clinical trials, the Toolkit is relevant to all types of health research.

Early bird registrations now open for ADF2020

Early bird registrations for the Australian Dementia Forum 2020 are now open. Join us in Adelaide from 31 May to 2 June to discuss the latest innovations, discoveries and research translation efforts from across Australia and around the world.

Discounted registrations are available for all NNIDR Members. Early bird registrations close Friday 3 April 2020.

Abstract submissions open until Friday 14 February 2020.

Lee Martin

Keynote - living with younger onset dementia

Lee Martin is living proof that challenging our brains can slow the progression of dementia. The 61-year-old mother of three, who was diagnosed with younger onset Alzheimer’s disease four years ago, is determined to beat dementia by keeping her brain healthy.


Professor Gill Livingston

Professor, Division of Psychiatry, University College London, United Kingdom

Gill Livingston is professor of psychiatry of older people in University College London and the head of mental health care of older people’s research & consultant psychiatrist, Camden & Islington NHS FT in the UK.


Assistant Professor Shane Liddelow

Assistant Professor at the Neuroscience Institute, NYU Lagone, USA 

Shane Liddelow is the Principal Investigator at Liddelow Lab at NYU. He leads a team in investigating the role of reactive astrocytes in Alzheimer's disease, as well as Parkinson's, Huntington's, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and Multiple Sclerosis.


Professor Suvarna Alladi

Professor of Neurology, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, India 

Suvarna Alladi specialises in cognitive and behavioural neurology. Developing strategies to reduce the burden of dementia are priority areas of interest, especially in the context of a developing country like India.


Dr Eddy Strivens

Regional Geriatrician and Clinical Director for Older Persons, Subacute and Rehabilitation in Far North Queensland 

Eddy Strivens is an Adjunct Professor with James Cook University School of Medicine. His clinical interests include community and sub-acute care, dementia in acute care and regional and telehealth outpatient memory clinics.


ADF2020 Accommodation

NNIDR has secured accommodation deals for ADF2020 delegates at the Intercontinental Adelaide, Pullman Adelaide, The Stamford Plaza Adelaide, The Playford Adelaide, the Miller Apartments, The Mac Boutique Hotel, Ibis Adelaide and Adelaide Paringa Motel. Discount codes and links will be sent to delegates following registration.

NB: The week of ADF2020 is likely to be a busy time in Adelaide, due to the State of Origin match on Wednesday 3 June 2020. NNIDR recommends that delegates confirm their travel and accommodation early to avoid surge pricing. See you in Adelaide!

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Fellow profile - Dr Lisa Kalisch-Ellett, Boosting Dementia Research Leadership Fellow

Work experience at a pharmacy as a teenager set Dr Lisa Kalisch Ellett on the path to becoming a registered pharmacist, gaining her PhD, and moving into pharmacoepidemiology to research patterns of medicines use in populations.

An NHMRC-ARC Dementia Research Development Fellow, Dr Kalisch Ellett’s latest research is looking into the role of medicines in causing or worsening cognitive impairment.

Several studies have shown an association between the use of anticholinergic or sedative medicines and increased risk of dementia. However, questions remain about whether these medicines cause dementia (or are just used by people already at risk), whether or not cognitive function improves if the medicines are stopped or the dose is reduced, and the characteristics of patients most likely to use these medicines. Dr Kalisch Ellett’s research aims to answer these questions.

Since 2004, Dr Kalisch Ellett has been involved in the Veterans’ Medicines Advice and Therapeutics Education Services (Veterans’ MATES) project to improve the use of medicines, and subsequent outcomes, for older veterans.

‘We succeeded in reducing the use of these anticholinergic and sedative medications in older veterans. The side effects can include confusion and memory issues, and we found that use of these medicines increased the risk of people going to hospital with dementia. It’s unusual for dementia to be the main reason for going to hospital, so it was really striking to see that association,’ says Dr Kalisch Ellett.

This sparked a deeper interest in dementia research.

‘Working in this field, it’s becoming clear that you need a really long study period to look at the use of these medicines going back 10 to 15 years and then forward 10 to 15 years.’

Dr Kalisch Ellett is reviewing anonymised veterans’ data dating back to around 2005. She is also using anonymised government prescription claims databases, hospital admissions data and medication data to help identify patterns over time. In addition, she is working with SA Health to try to reduce the use of these medications in hospital patients in South Australia.

‘Reducing the use of these medications can help reduce confusion in patients. It’s like doing a risk benefit analysis. For example, anticholinergics are sometimes used to treat urinary incontinence, but if they may cause confusion, is it worth running the risk of that side effect?’

The NHMRC-ARC Dementia Research Development Fellowship has enabled Dr Kalisch Ellett to dedicate more of her time to dementia research. It has also created opportunities to meet and collaborate with other researchers.

‘It really gets the ideas bubbling. Sometimes as researchers we work in silos. For example, I’m a pharmacist so I focus on the medicine, but when we can bring our research together, it’s brilliant.’

‘One of things with dementia medication trials is that they can be heartbreaking when the trial fails. Some of the drug companies have decided it’s not financially viable to stay in the race. So it’s really important that we help to make life better for people with dementia and minimise the unpleasant effects of medicines that are not helpful.’

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Cognitive Decline Partnership Centre (CDPC) launches guidelines for general practitioners and primary care workers

The CDPC has launched People with dementia: A care guide for general practice to assist primary care workers in making decisions on providing the best care for people living with dementia. Developed by the CDPC with a working group of general practitioners, primary care nurses, psychologists and researchers, the guide addresses six priority areas.

These updated guidelines have incorporated feedback and provide a simple and practical set of decision aids for use in primary care settings.

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Seen in MJA: Call for greater inclusion of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities in dementia research

The Medical Journal of Australia has recently published the paper Including ethnic and cultural diversity in dementia research, authored by Boosting Dementia Research Leadership Fellow Associate Professor Lee-Fay Low, along with Dr Annica Barcenilla-Wong and Associate Professor Bianca Brijnath. The paper, which highlights the need for increased representation of people from CALD communities, also attracted media attention across the country, including on SBS, in the Australian, in Medical Xpress and Mirage News

The effort to increase representation in dementia research and improve health outcomes for people living with dementia forms the basis of the NNIDR CALD Dementia Research Action Plan, which is due for release early next year.

Read the MJA paper from Associate Professor Lee-Fay Low, Dr Annica Barcenilla-Wong and Associate Professor Bianca Brijnath here.

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Moving Pictures 2: Dementia awareness resources for Italian, Greek, Vietnamese and Spanish speaking communities

The National Ageing Research Institute’s (NARI) Moving Pictures project has received additional funding from the Commonwealth Department of Health to expand its collection of awareness raising resources for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) Australians. The Moving Pictures films and comics fill a gap in dementia awareness resources designed with and for CALD communities.

With Moving Pictures resources for the Hindi-, Tamil-, Cantonese-, Mandarin-, and Arabic-speaking communities already available via, the team is now working on films and comics for Greek, Italian, Vietnamese and Spanish-speaking communities. NARI researchers are also developing a film, drawing on the research with all nine language groups, to produce messages that address dementia stigma in these CALD communities.

Italian- and Greek- speaking bilingual research assistants are joining the project team in mid-November and will be video-interviewing Greek and Italian carers of people living with dementia and service providers in Melbourne, Perth and Hobart in the coming months. Work on resources for Vietnamese- and Spanish-speaking communities will begin in the first half 2020. Vietnamese- and Spanish-speaking research assistants will be conducting interviews with these communities in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide.

The video-interviews with carers and Key Service Providers will inform the development of the Moving Pictures resources. To create the films and comics, researchers produce storyboards based on analysed data and work with community stakeholders to co-produce relevant and culturally salient resources that will resonate with communities. The results are dementia awareness resources that are not only in the languages of the different ethnic communities, but that also deal with the unique issues that dementia and dementia care present for these groups.    

To find out more about the project, visit You can also get in touch to be part of Moving Pictures 2 by filling out a form on the website.

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Current Funding Rounds

Investigator Grants - minimum data due date passed
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. Applications close 27 November 2019
Visit the NHMRC website for further information.

Centres of Research Excellence
The Centres of Research Excellence (CRE) scheme provides support for teams of researchers to pursue collaborative research and develop capacity in clinical research, health services research and public health research. Minimum data due 20 November 2019
Visit the NHMRC website for more information.

Development Grants
The Development Grants 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. Development Grants 2020 is now open for applications in Sapphire. If you are applying for a Development Grant you will be participating in a pilot of Sapphire. Minimum data due 20 November 2019. 
Visit the NHMRC website for more information.

MRFF International Clinical Trial Collaborations (ICTC) Program PRC3

The ICTC Grant Opportunity will provide support for Australian research teams to conduct clinical trial research in collaboration with international counterparts. Applications for this grant opportunity must propose a single clinical trial that will achieve the following outcomes:

  • promote Australian involvement in international collaborative investigator-initiated clinical trials research through the establishment and co‑ordination of clinical trial site/s in Australia; and
  • provide high-quality evidence of the effectiveness of novel health treatments, drugs or devices in ‘usual care’ settings, which will support a decision on whether to deliver the intervention in an Australian setting.

Novel health treatments include new and innovative applications of existing interventions. Minimum data due 20 November 2019
Visit the NHMRC website for more information.

Partnership Projects PRC3
This funding scheme provides funding and support to create new opportunities for researchers and policy makers to work together to define research questions, undertake research, interpret the findings and implement the findings into policy and practice. Minimum data due 20 November 2019
Visit the NHMRC website for more information.

National Network for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health researchers

NHMRC has committed to funding a National Network for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health researchers as part of responding to Road Map 3: A strategic framework for improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health through research. 

The Network will need to bring together many different organisations. This document is intended to provide interested parties with the information that will allow initial discussions about collaborations or consortia to occur, while the final details and approvals for this call are being determined. Expressions of interest due to NHMRC by mid-January 2020
Visit the NHMRC website for more information.

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Upcoming Events

Australian Dementia Forum 2020 | 31 May-2 June 2020 | Adelaide

ADF2020 - Dementia Research: Innovation, Discovery and Translationencourages the research community to celebrate the discoveries and innovation achieved through recent targeted efforts like the Boosting Dementia Research Initiative. The Forum will also look forward to the task of translating research outcomes into practice and improving the life of those living with dementia, their families and carers.
Visit the ADF2020 website to register and find out more.

34th International Conference of Alzheimer's Disease International | 19-21 March 2020 | Singapore 

This unique, multidisciplinary event brings together all those with an interest in dementia, including researchers, scientists, clinicians, allied healthcare professionals, people living with dementia, family members, care professionals, and staff and volunteers of Alzheimer associations. 
Visit the ADI Conference website for more details.

Dementia Australia National Symposium | 24 March 2020 | Sydney

Dementia Australia’s National Symposium 2020 - Quality care is dementia care, is the culmination of Dementia Australia’s Quality Care Initiative, a project started in 2018 to identify how people living with dementia, and their families and carers define quality dementia care. The symposium will provide a timely opportunity within the context of the work of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety to explore the importance of leadership in shaping culture to achieve the outcomes consumers are seeking. Delegates will hear from providers on how they are achieving engaged workforces who are delivering improved outcomes for consumers.
Visit the Symposium website for more details. 

ANZGSM Annual Scientific Meeting 2020 | 27-29 May 2020 | Melbourne 

The 2020 Annual Scientific Meeting of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Geriatric Medicine - Vision for the future, is an opportunity to look at the emerging themes in Geriatric Medicine and how these will impact on the care of the older person into the future. The scientific programme will feature updates in dementia and delirium and the Australian Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. 
Visit the Scientific Meeting website for more details.

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Useful References

Including ethnic and cultural diversity in dementia research
Low LF, Barcenilla-Wong AL, Brijnath B
The Medical Journal of Australia
Click here to read the paper.

Consumer Involvement and Engagement Toolkit
Australian Clinical Trials Alliance
The Consumer Involvement and Engagement Toolkit provides practical advice for researchers and research organisations wishing to conduct patient-centred clinical trials.
Click here to access the toolkit.

People with dementia: A care guide for general practice
Cognitive Decline Partnership Centre
This guide for general practice assists with making decisions about how to provide the best care for a person with dementia. The guide addresses six priority topics that a GP or primary care worker is likely to encounter when providing care for a person with a dementia diagnosis.
Click here to view the guide

Biomarker-based prognosis for people with mild cognitive impairment (ABIDE): a modelling study
van Maurik IS, Vos SJ, Bos I, Bouwman FH, Teunissen CE, Scheltens P
The Lancet Journal of Neurology
Click here to read the article.

Advancing dementia prevention through effective blood pressure control
Peters R, Anderson CS
The Lancet Journal of Neurology
Click here to read the article.

Serum neurofilament light chain in genetic frontotemporal dementia: a longitudinal, multicentre cohort study
van der Ende EL, Lieke MH, Poos JM, Panman JL, Lize JC, Dopper EGP
The Lancet Journal of Neurology
Click here to read the article.

AAIC Sydney Presentation Slides
Alzheimer's Association International Conference Satellite Symposium
Click here to view AAIC Sydney Slides.

NNIDR Expert Advisory Panel Meeting Communique September 2019
The Expert Advisory Panel met in Sydney and via videoconference on 24 September 2019, immediately prior to the AAIC Satellite Symposium (25-27 September 2019). This Communique updates stakeholders on meeting deliberations across key strategic areas.
Click here to view the Communique.

Roundtable Communique - World Dementia Council: The meaningful dementia friendly initiatives review
Invited representatives from the dementia research sector, dementia advocates, Department of Health, Dementia Australia and local Councils engaged in dementia friendly community (DFC) intiatives participated in a two-hour Roundtable to discuss, and provide input to, the World Dementia Council's 'Meaning dementia friendly initiatives review'.

Click here to view the Communique.

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