Exterior view of the Population Data Science building.

Swansea University has been awarded £2.4 million in funding to continue and develop the Dementias Platform UK (DPUK) Data Portal - a world-class data repository for dementia research.

THE DPUK operates on a Secure eResearch Platform (SeRP), a Trusted Research Environment (TRE) provider, that is developed by the team from Population Data Science at Swansea University. The renewal of funding is part of a multi-million-pound investment by The UK’s Medical Research Council (MRC) in partnership with industry and the third sector. 

The renewal means DPUK will receive a further £7.5m from the MRC, with up to £8.5m from partners, in support of its aims to accelerate progress in dementia research by identifying the early signs of disease and supporting the translation of scientific discoveries into potential new treatments and preventive strategies. 

The DPUK Data Portal, led by Professor Ronan Lyons, Professor Simon Thompson, Emma Squires and the team at Population Data Science, is a world-class repository and analysis environment for dementia-optimised cohort data. Free to use, it gives researchers anywhere in the world access to high-quality, multi-modal data from more than 50 population and clinical cohort studies. DPUK gives researchers rapid online access to high quality, multi-modal data from over 3.5 million participants.  

Researchers can identify which cohorts are relevant to their research or area of study, apply for access to the data, and then analyse it in a secure, remote environment complete with data linkage, analytical software packages, and cross-cohort capability.  

Next phase of DPUK 

The next phase of DPUK will build on its achievements to date in three key areas, working strategically with aligned investments in the UK:  

  • The DPUK Data Portal will be developed to create a globally leading repository for population and clinical cohort study data. These studies follow participants over an extended period of time to detect changes due to disease. The Data Portal will be aligned with similar international data repositories through the Alzheimer’s disease Data Initiative, and, in partnership with Health Data Research UK, will link NHS patient electronic health records to DPUK cohort data to provide a major open-science resource for the community. Analysis of this data will offer new insights into dementia – including the earliest signs of disease.  
  • The Trials Delivery Framework will establish an engine for testing new treatments for dementia. Working with the NIHR’s Join Dementia Research initiative and the Scottish Brain Health Register, this nationwide network will power recruitment of public participants and precision-match the right volunteers to the right studies and trials to ensure we can understand what works and what doesn’t – quickly and robustly. 
  • The Experimental Medicine Incubator will support a range of scientific studies investigating the root causes of dementia: how we lose synapses (the ‘junctions’ between nerve cells); what triggers brain inflammation; and how we can prevent dementia caused by vascular (blood vessel) disease. The Incubator will operate in association with the UK Dementia Research Institute, Alzheimer’s Research UK, and the Alzheimer’s Society.  

Professor John Gallacher, Director of DPUK and Professor of Cognitive Health at Oxford University, said: ‘We are delighted to be able to confirm our renewed MRC funding, which means that many more scientists will have access to the technology, support and research resources needed to transform our understanding of dementia.

‘Dementia is one of the biggest public health challenges facing us globally in the 21st century, and we believe DPUK’s ethos of collaboration and innovation will help engineer the breakthroughs in early detection and treatment that we urgently need.’ 

Professor Ronan Lyons, Associate Director at DPUK and DPUK Data Portal Lead, said: “We are thrilled that the MRC has provided funding to enable the partnership to continue its vital work. The 2.4 million funding for the DPUK Data Portal will allow us to continue to provide researchers with rapid, safe access to high quality, multi-modal data from over 3.5 million participants and to develop the portal into a global repository for population and clinical cohort study data.”

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