Despite research funding still lagging far other major health conditions – dementia charities can invest around £17m a year compared to over £380m for cancer charities – there is a sense of optimism in the scientific community. Dementia is long overdue its place in the spotlight and we must capitalise on this opportunity.

The human brain is the most complex structure in the known universe and understanding how it goes wrong is one of our biggest scientific challenges. Although there are many things still to be uncovered about the workings of the brain and what happens in dementia, we know more than ever about the proteins, genes and molecules driving Alzheimer’s and other diseases that cause dementia. They are physical diseases, and with sustained investment and support, researchers can tackle them in the same way they’ve made such strides against heart disease and cancer.

The UK is home to some of the world’s greatest dementia scientists and they’re collaborating across the globe to make progress faster. Our scientists have discovered over 20 genes linked to an altered risk of Alzheimer’s, throwing open new avenues for treatment investigation. Researchers are working hard to understand and detect the earliest changes in the diseases that cause dementia, from innovative brain scanning to discovering blood signatures that could underpin new diagnostic techniques.

We’re reaching a turning point in research, where we must capitalise on these promising discoveries and ensure they’re translated quickly into new treatments, preventions and diagnostics. That urgent need drove us to launch the Alzheimer’s Research UK Drug Discovery Alliance – a network of Drug Discovery Institutes. Our Institutes will house dedicated drug discovery teams focused on designing and developing potential new drugs for dementia.

But it’s not only researchers that are making a difference in research. The public play a vital role too, not only in supporting research but also in taking part. Anyone with or without dementia interested in volunteering for research studies can visit www.joindementiaresearch.nihr.ac.uk or call Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Dementia Research Infoline on 0300 111 5 111.

Find out more about research into dementia at www.alzheimersresearchuk.org