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Worldwide collaboration to fund research into brain diseases

Toronto, Chicago & London – Three leading research funders from North America and the UK have joined forces to launch a new global initiative called MEND or, MEchanisms of cellular death in NeuroDegeneration. The initiative has a fund of $1.25 million USD (£820,000/$1.56CDN) for targeted research into brain diseases that cause dementia, such as Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s Research UK, the Alzheimer’s Association in the US and Canada’s Weston Brain Institute, whose participation in MEND is funded by Selfridges, announced the collaboration in response to the G7 health leaders’ recent commitment to a collective and significant increase in funding for dementia research. G7 health leaders are meeting in Bethesda, Maryland, this week to review progress on their goal of identifying a cure or disease-modifying treatment by 2025.

Today, 44 million people are living with dementia worldwide, and that number is set to almost double by 2030 and more than triple by 2050, according to Alzheimer’s Disease International: World Alzheimer Report 2014.

MEND’s funding will focus on pioneering new projects to understand the causes of brain cell death, a key goal for research into neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s, frontotemporal dementia and dementia with Lewy bodies. These diseases cause a range of debilitating symptoms, including memory loss, difficulty with language, visual hallucinations or problems with movement, but they all share the same hallmark – the death of brain cells, including neurons and glia.

In recent years there has been significant progress in scientists’ understanding of these diseases, but these advances have also highlighted key areas where there are still gaps in knowledge. The mechanisms underlying brain cell death are not yet fully understood, and the significance and commonality of this hallmark across multiple brain diseases is a key reason for the MEND initiative. Finding answers to this important question could provide vital new clues to help fight these diseases.

“The Weston Brain Institute was established to be a catalyst in a transformational new chapter in the fight against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. The global epidemic of dementia underscores the importance of activating international collaborations like MEND, a program aimed at funding a critical knowledge gap,” said W. Galen Weston, chairman and president of The W. Garfield Weston Foundation, which launched the Weston Brain Institute. “The institute is pleased to work with its MEND partners, including Selfridges, to accelerate high priority research with the potential to lead to treatments for multiple brain diseases of aging.”

Selfridges’ funds will be managed and allocated by Weston Brain Institute.

MEND is open to applications from scientists around the globe, and researchers will be encouraged to collaborate on projects, sharing knowledge and resources in order to speed up progress. It is hoped the scheme will also help answer fundamental questions about the similarities and differences between different diseases, such as whether the underlying mechanisms that cause cell death differ from one disease to another, and why each disease affects different types. More information is available on the Weston Brain Institute’s website.