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Dementia envoy wants Australia on board

An international dementia expert appointed by the G7 group of nations touched down in Australia to meet with government and other relevant departments, agencies and representatives.

The world dementia envoy, Dr Dennis Gillings – whom UK Prime Minister David Cameron appointed in February – said he wants to bring Australia into the global club.

“That’s one of my prime messages here,” Gillings said. “We have a number of countries involved in our global initiatives and programs and we want Australia to be a very strong part of that.”

He would like to see Australia taking the mantle of leadership in areas such as prevention and reduction of risk of dementia. “Australia has a lot of visibility in that area,” Gillings said.

He would also like Australia’s regulatory agency, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, be part of the global collection of regulators looking at potential ways to accelerate drug development and get more treatments.

“We would also like to see advocacy by political leaders – advocacy is really powerful in bringing interest and then enthusiasm to deal with dementia, care for people with dementia and ultimately help try to prevent and cure it,” he said.

To have the best chance of finding a cure or disease modifying therapy for dementia, Gillings said, there must be better understanding of the brain. “Until we truly understand the detailed vallecula workings of the brain, we are going to have some difficulty, I think.

“You have to do a tremendous amount of research before one [avenue] pays off and so we need, on a global basis, more basic research so that the pharmaceutical industry knows what to target in the brain in order to achieve disease modification.”

Gillings said he is hopeful there would be a cure or modifying therapy by 2025. “I’m very optimistic but it’s not going to come because we are complacent,” he said. “If globally we work together and if industry and research work together and if there is more funding I think we can get there.”

Listen to the full interview with Dennis Gillings

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