Professor Ricardo Allegri: “Worldwide, there’s a new case of dementia every four seconds”
Professor Ricardo Allegri, a researcher from the CONICET, Argentina's Research Council, will take part in the World Dementia Council’s WDC 11 meeting in London on 20 and 21 July.
By the end of 2013, in a summit that took place in London, G8 representatives set out the creation of the World Dementia Council. The goal is to counteract the global advancement of this disease through investing in research and development of drugs and therapies that may help improve patients' quality of life, as well as to find a cure or a change in the disease before 2025.
Although WDC was initially funded by the British government, since 2016 it has operated completely independently and has taken up the role of global advisor towards jointly working in the fight against dementia in general and Alzheimer’s in particular. This coincided with the transformation of WDC into a truly global organisation with representatives from five continents. WDC's Argentine representative is Professor Ricardo Allegri, principal researcher of the CONICET in the Foundation against Childhood Neurological Diseases (Fundación para la Lucha contra las Enfermedades Neurológicas de la Infancia - FLENI).
Professor Allegri, who is also the chair of the Scientific Commitee of the Association Against Alzheimer’s (Asociación de Lucha contra el Mal de Alzheimer de Argentina - ALMA), considers that the annual increase in the number of dementia cases worldwide allows us to talk of an epidemic and warns that in developing countries like Argentina the increase will be even greater.
What is the global outlook concerning pathologies associated with dementia? What is the situation in Argentina?
It has been estimated that there are 47.5 million people suffering from dementia worldwide and the prediction is that this figure will go up to 75.6 million by 2030, whilst by 2050 it will reach 135.5 million. Besides, it has been projected that the increase will be much greater in developing countries like Argentina, which are not as well prepared to confront it. Worldwide, there’s a new case of dementia every four seconds –that is, 7.7 million a year, a true epidemic.
Against this backdrop, which are the objectives of WDC?
WDC's objective is to concentrate and multiply all the efforts to confront the global crisis of dementia, including raising awareness, finding the causes, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and the care of patients and their families. The initial motivation was to overcome the barriers to innovation and to help find investments across the world to discover a drug that cures or modifies the disease by 2025 and at the same time improve the care of patients with dementia. The council meets every six months. The last meeting was in Paris between 27-28 February and the next one will take place in London on 20-21 July.
Who are its members?
WDC is made up of 24 leaders representing all the sectors related to dementia: researchers, NGOs, philanthropic institutions, pharma companies, universities, the WHO, regulators and governments across the world.
What advances have it made so far?
WDC has promoted the first Ministerial Conference on Dementia of the WHO (Geneva, March 2015), in which representatives from 93 governments - including the Health Secretary of Argentina - signed a commitment “Call for Action against Dementia” where they stressed the importance of focusing on and promoting across countries joint efforts against this disease. Among the achievements, it is also worth highlighting the creation of the Dementia Discovery Fund, which helped gather US $100 million towards research, private, public and third sector investments and the promotion of dementia national plans in 22 countries.
What does it mean for you to be appointed as member of WDC?
I consider it a great honour and a huge challenge, given that I am the only representative from Latin America and the first one from Argentina in this role.
Ricardo Allegri graduated as a medical doctor in 1981 at the Universidad de Buenos Aires and in 1994 he obtained a Phd in Medical Sciences in the same institution with a dissertation on procedural memory. He is currently principal researcher of the CONICET at FLENI, where he is Chief of Cognitive Neurology. He is the Chair of the Scientific Committee of ALMA (Association for the Fight against Alzheimer’s Disease in Argentina) and since 2008 he has chaired the Health Research Council of the Health Ministry of the city of Buenos Aires. He has published several scientific papers in local and International journals and 11 books. He received 38 awards from different organisations, including the Florencio Fiorini “Advances in Geriatrics” (1996), the Health Quality Management (2004) and the National Academy of Medicine (2006). His main areas of research are Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive deterioration.