NHMRC National Institute of Dementia Research (NNIDR)

Working to improve dementia research

The National Institute for Dementia Research (NNIDR) was established in July 2015 by the NHMRC in partnership with Dementia Australia, following calls for improved focus and collaboration among Australian dementia researchers, and additional consumer engagement across all research efforts.

“The Institute has provided us with a unique model for lifting public and political engagement to enhance dementia research,” Janice Besch, the recently appointed Institute Director said.

“Through its positioning within the Government’s peak body for health and medical research funding, it allows us to collaborate with top researchers in the field working across five key priority areas to provide focus and to ensure we are optimising our research dollars. 

“Dementia Australia, in taking responsibility for the administration of the Institute, allows us to draw on the expertise of consumers, health professionals, industry and policy makers to translate evidence into policy and practice. 

“This arrangement is a first for Australia and novel in world terms,” Ms Besch said.  

The NNIDR was founded as part of the Australian Government’s $200 million initiative in 2015 to boost dementia research. Since its formation, the Institute has worked tirelessly to target, coordinate and translate the strategic expansion of dementia research in Australia.

Through its collaborative efforts, both locally and internationally, the Institute is working towards helping to achieve a five-year delay in the onset of dementia by 2025 - the international priority set by the World Dementia Council.

The five key priority areas to which the Institute is working include prevention, assessment and diagnosis, intervention and treatment, living with dementia and care. Some examples of how these areas are being addressed through Institute collaborations include:

  • Prevention - the ‘Maintain Your Brain’ trial, which is being run out of the University of New South Wales, will recruit 18,000 people to test whether an internet coaching tool can reduce the risk of dementia by addressing the lack of community understanding of dementia risk factors.
  • Assessment and Diagnosis - researchers at the University of South Australia will investigate how pain-free, inexpensive, non-invasive brain stimulation might be used to identify markers of early brain dysfunction in Alzheimer’s disease and improve accuracy and timeliness of diagnosis.
  • Intervention and Treatment - University of New South Wales researchers will study data from Australia and across Europe to identify genetic factors contributing to familial Alzheimer’s disease. The results will inform the development of new interventions and treatments that will help sustain independence amongst people living with dementia, improve quality of life and care, and delay or prevent disease progression.
  • Living with Dementia - researchers at the University of Newcastle will test the effectiveness of a strategy to increase use of an Dementia Australia website developed to assist people with dementia in documenting an advance care plan. The goal is improved care for individuals with dementia at the end-of-life, and a lessened burden on carers and relatives.
  • Care - University of Newcastle researchers will roll out the Australian Community Of practice in Research in Dementia (ACcORD) project, to bring together a multidisciplinary team to work towards improving health and quality of life of people with dementia and their carers.

The Institute, through the Boosting Dementia Research Initiative, is working to dramatically expand capacity in dementia research across all key challenges. Efforts to boost capacity include:

  • $9 million in funds to support the Clem Jones Centre for Ageing Dementia Research at the University of Queensland;
  • 76 fellowships to early career researchers worth $46 million across all five key priority areas; and
  • allocating up to $24 million to support mid-career researchers transition to future leaders of the field.

To prioritise additional funding for dementia research projects in the health and aged care sector, while ensuring research translates into better care for dementia patients, the NNIDR has: 

  • funded 6 dementia research team grants worth $35.6 million for large collaborative projects;
  • allocated $18 million for successful grant applications that focus on implementing dementia research into clinical practice and care; and
  • allocated $10 million to a targeted call for research to address dementia in Indigenous Australians.

The NNIDR has also been tasked with developing international collaborations in dementia research. One example of NNIDR’s efforts is participation in the EU Joint Program (JPND) for Neurodegeneration Research - the largest global research initiative aimed at tackling the challenge of neurodegenerative diseases. Australia is now a 3rd party member of the JPND, and is represented by NNIDR. Through the NNIDR’s participation in the JPND Australian researchers were supported with $2.6 million during the 2015 funding round for risk and protective factors, longitudinal cohort approaches and advanced experimental models of neurodegeneration. NNIDR has allocated up to $5 million for Australian dementia researchers to participate in the 2017 JPND funding round for pathway analysis across neurodegenerative diseases.

The Institute is also looking to invest in vital dementia research infrastructure that will help enable scientists to develop the solutions required, and will be announcing initiatives in this and other key priority areas shortly.

For more information on the NHMRC National Institute of Dementia Research (NNIDR), visit their website