Following engagement with its national members, research funders and industry partners, Alzheimer Europe issued a position statement highlighting the pressure on dementia research as a result of COVID-19.
The pandemic has caused disruption to all aspects of life across the world, as measures aimed at slowing the spread of the virus (social distancing, lockdown, closing of places of work etc.) have interrupted normal ways of working. This is also true for researchers working in laboratory and clinical settings, where a multitude of overlapping issues (furloughing or redeployment of staff, closure of services etc.) have resulted in research and projects being put on hold.
In addition to these physical distancing restrictions, changes to funding and resources have also placed pressure on the dementia research community. Specifically, concerns around the funding of delayed research projects, the cancellation of future research calls and a shift in focus towards COVID-19 in research calls have added new challenges to the field.
As a result, research has slowed, impeding the ability of researchers to develop innovations to detect, diagnose, prevent and treat the underlying diseases which cause dementia. Furthermore, the cumulative impact of these challenges will have a significant impact upon researchers, particularly those at an early stage of their career.
To address these issues, the position statement sets out a number of recommendations aimed at both research funders (including governments and supranational bodies) and research institutions, grouped under three overarching themes:
The need for greater support and flexibility for existing dementia research projects.
The impact on dementia research funding streams as a result of COVID-19.
The need to prioritise dementia in post-pandemic future research.
EU to dedicate a specific strand of work to dementia research within the Horizon Europe framework programme for research & innovation (2021-2027).
National research funders and governments to provide increased funding and resources for dementia research, in line with other conditions (e.g. other non-communicable diseases) and the ambitious aims set out in the 2013 G8 Communiqué.
Research funders to show the maximum possible flexibility for funding recipients, to ensure resources can be allocated as required to allow for the completion of projects and to consider additional funding to support project extensions due to the COVID-19 pandemic
National research funders should adopt an approach focused on prevention, care and cure, spanning the whole range of dementia research from fundamental science to care research
Commenting on the position statement, Alzheimer Europe’s Executive Director, Jean Georges, stated: “The COVID-19 pandemic has severely disrupted the innovative and promising research into dementia, undermining the progress made in dementia research to date. As dementia research is an area which has historically received proportionately less funding than related disease areas, these pressures have been felt even more intensely by researchers and research institutions, as well as by some research funders. That is why we call upon all governments, funding bodies and research institutions to work together to ensure that the negative impacts of the pandemic are mitigated and that dementia is re-prioritised with the necessary resources and funds to improve our understanding of the underlying causes of dementia and our ability to provide the highest quality care and support to the 9.78 million people living with the condition in Europe”.
The full position statement can be accessed on the website of Alzheimer Europe: https://www.alzheimer-europe.org/Policy/Our-opinion-on/Dementia-Research-and-COVID-19