Interdisciplinary Dementia and Ageing Centre
A interdisciplinary research centre dedicated to dementia and brain ageing
The understanding of dementia and neurodegenerative disease, together with improved therapies and delivery of care for people with these conditions, is a pressing need in the UK, and the South Coast region is recognised as an area where these problems are particularly acute.
The Interdisciplinary Dementia and Ageing Centre (IDeAC), initiated and supported by the Institute for Life Sciences at the University of Southampton, has brought together local expertise from across the research spectrum to form a dedicated interdisciplinary dementia and ageing research centre to address the problems in this complex field.
The IDeAC network includes basic scientists, clinicians, health and social care delivery researchers, epidemiologists, imagers, mathematicians, and computing and data scientists.
The strength in iDeAC is the close collaboration between academics (who are testing ideas), NHS staff (who are involved in day to day diagnosis and care), engineers (for technological development and modelling), mathematicians (for modelling processes that cannot be seen with any current method) and industry (who develop new treatments).
Thinking differently and transforming healthcare through collaborative interdisciplinary research into the problems of brain ageing and dementia; from molecules to models of care.
- iDeAC seeks to focus, energise and support interdisciplinary research and clinical translation in dementia and brain ageing in Southampton throughout the health and social care pathway (from molecules to models of care)
- iDeAC aims to generate new insights into the problems of dementia and brain ageing by focusing on interdisciplinary collaboration to challenge existing thinking and develop innovative solutions
- iDeAC aims to build on existing strengths to catalyse new interdisciplinary partnerships across academic, clinical, social care and industry sectors in Southampton and beyond
iDeAC is collaborative, interdisciplinary, innovative, creative and disruptive
- Make it easy to conduct interdisciplinary collaborative research into brain ageing and dementia and clinical translation across the patient journey from molecules to models of care
- Establish a reputation for iDeAC research excellence and delivery at a local, national and international level
- Articulate iDeAC focus, capability, achievements and impact
The need for a interdisciplinary dementa and ageing centre
The South Coast is a region with an ageing population. Demographic pressures over the next 20 years will increase pressure on clinical services. Research into brain ageing and dementia is crucial, but needs to integrate advances across disciplines and be focused along the entire length of the clinical pathway: from biology through clinical and social care to system management at scale. New insights will come from the interface between disciplines thinking differently about dementia and brain ageing. In Southampton, all the elements are already in place. iDeAC, the Interdisciplinary Dementia and Ageing Centre aims to focus and energise these efforts by supporting researchers and clinicians and making interdisciplinary collaboration easy, capable and effective.
During the Spring of 2019, a series of meetings were held to develop the appetite, themes and strategy for an Interdisciplinary Dementia and Ageing Centre in Southampton. It was clear from the outset that there was huge enthusiasm for this, a wealth of untapped resources, and above all strength in people, facilities and ideas. In a sense, iDeAC existed from the start! National policy drivers supporting this effort include the Life Sciences Strategy and the NHS Long Term plan. Locally, The University of Southampton seeks to grow interdisciplinary research, and University Hospital Southampton wishes to work with partners to realize the benefits of research for its patients and staff. As part of its Life Sciences Strategy, the Institute for Life Sciences (IfLS) aims to build interconnected networks and facilitate fusions of research expertise to address key health and societal issues. Within the Faculty of Medicine, work on Healthy Ageing is a key strategic endeavour, and a range of cross-cutting themes are directly related to work that will be facilitated by iDeAC.
Formation of a south coast interdisciplinary dementa and ageing centre
iDeAC emerged from the people that already work in the area of dementia and brain ageing in Southampton. The key purpose defined by groups during the series of workshops was to promote the sharing of expertise in a learning environment, and to create an integrated hub for collaboration and innovation. Working together on ideas across disciplines and building strategic partnerships to bid successfully for funding opportunities are key outcomes for the group.
‘The strength in iDeAC is the close collaboration between academics (who are testing ideas), NHS staff (who are involved in day to day diagnosis and care), engineers (for technological development and modelling), mathematicians (for modelling processes that cannot be seen with any current method) and industry (who develop new treatments)’
A number of natural areas of focus emerged from the strategy development across 4 basic themes: basic and translational science, clinical diagnosis and prognosis, clinical trials, community and postdiagnostic care. Southampton has strong vascular, neuro-inflammation and dementia biology research. Within clinical diagnosis, neuropathology, neuropsychology and clinical diagnostics are world class. Our imaging capability, for tissue and clinical diagnostics are strong and highly capable. We have highly experienced clinical trials groups in the region, with researchers participating in cutting edge clinical trials in all dementias. Southampton hosts the Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Training Centre, and will be the Dementia and Ageing Lead within the new NIHR Applied Research Collaboration (ARC). New digital care delivery developed by University Hospital Southampton (My Medical Record) is part of the Dept. of Health Digital Exemplar programme.
To be successful, iDeAC needs a secure organizational framework. The group will be lead by an executive group together with subtheme and focus area leads. The arrangements will evolve during the first three years. The core purpose of the combined leadership team is to develop the iDeAC brand to support and attract external funding support for the group to become self sustaining. An ambition to host a programme grant is a key part of the iDeAC strategy.
The Diagnosis and Prognosis theme links the basic science theme to clinical services. There is a strong history of cutting-edge neuropathology research in Southampton which has significantly advanced the field. There are established clinical services in place for evaluation of dementia diagnosis and provision of care. Existing strengths include dementia diagnostic imaging, with an imaging physics department that has expertise in structural and functional imaging, modelling and scientific computing. The neuropsychology team within this theme provide clinical diagnostic support to the region, and have interests in diagnostic test development within a clinical environment.
Ultimately, dementia basic science and diagnostic advances need to be focused on the individual, their relationships and the wider community. This theme benefits from a strong research base in user-centred and care-delivery design, with particular focus on the dementia workforce. There is established work focusing on quality of life in dementia subgroups, and on evaluating the nature of care provision in the community. New models of care have been pioneered including digital self-management provision (My Medical Record).
There is a long history of dementia, brain ageing and neurodegenerative disease trials in Southampton. The Memory Assessment and Research Centre (Moorgreen Hospital, Southern Health FT) has a strong track record of delivery in dementia trials and participated in the earliest trials of cognitive enhancing medication for dementia. At Southampton, the Neurosciences Research Group conducts Phase 2 and Phase 3 trials through the University Hospital Southampton NIHR CRF facility for a range of dementias.
This theme benefits from existing expertise in basic science focusing on cell biology, vascular pathophysiology and neuroinflammation. Areas of interest include the maternal influence on fetal cerebrovascular development, the effects of diabetes and anti-diabetic drugs on models of tauopathy and the toxicity of different tau species to aid a molecular level understanding of dementia biology. The theme has expertise in neuronal and glial biology, cerebrovascular drainage pathways and the role of neuroinflammation in neurodegeneration, brain ageing and dementia.