Translation and innovation

Turning breakthroughs into treatments

Pharma Drugs Red

We have a clearly defined vision at the UK DRI to develop effective therapeutics, diagnostics and technologies for people living with dementia. Alongside building our disease knowledge over the coming years, we will also make progress in translating these discoveries into the clinic.

At UK DRI HQ, we have a dedicated innovation and business team led by Dr Kay Penicud, who supports translation and commercialisation activities such as strategic collaborations with industry partners, intellectual property identification and protection, spin-out formation, licensing deals, proof of concept studies, and early-stage clinical trials.

Discover more about our translational work in the UK DRI digital brochure

Our approach to translation and innovation

The structure of UK DRI - seven research centres hosted by world-leading universities across the UK – and our emphasis on highly collaborative research are key strengths of the Institute which offer significant advantanges to our scientists and external partners.

Many of our 750+ researchers are new to dementia but bring unique skills and perspectives to the field. We harness this multidisciplinarity and activitely encourage the sharing of expertise through collaborative projects. This approach has unlocked new thinking in dementia research and led to exciting projects that will bring us closer to much-needed effective therapies.

To ensure promising findings are rapidly acted upon and given the best chance of reaching the clinic, we have established vital agreements that allow us to act as a single point of access to multiple university and industrial partners. Partnerships are a key part of our translation vision, and we work with a range of industry partners, investors, and NHS trusts.

Find out how we’re building a culture of translation in this Q&A with Dr Kay Penicud

Partnership success

Our approach has already led to several strategic partnerships across the Institute, bringing new interest and investment to tackling dementia.

Industry partnerships
  • Eisai

    Eisai is a leading global research and development-based pharmaceutical company.

    In 2019, UK DRI and Eisai launched a joint £2M funding initiative to support innovative research that translates into improvements in diagnosis, treatment and prevention of all types of dementia. Awards are provided for a new three-year postdoctoral researcher to undertake a project in a UK DRI research group. The postdocs benefit from both the UK DRI’s state-of-the-art research facilities and Eisai’s drug discovery and translational expertise.

    Find out more about the collaborative projects from spring 2021 and autumn 2020.


  • Lilly

    Lilly is a global pharmaceutical company committed to bringing new therapies to slow or halt the progression of neurodegenerative diseases.

    In December 2020, UK DRI announced a partnership with Lilly to identify new potential treatments for dementia. In the first phase of this partnership, Lilly committed a total investment of over £1m in funding for three projects led by UK DRI researchers to explore promising new avenues for treatments.


  • Astex

    Astex Pharmaceuticals has a strong track record in discovering drugs for patient populations of high unmet medical need.

    In April 2022, the UK DRI announced a partnership with Astex, aiming to identify and validate novel pathways and drug targets for neurodegenerative disease. The first phase of the partnership kicked off with two research projects, for which Astex has committed an investment of over £1m.



    SPARC is a pharmaceutical company focused on continuously improving standards of care for patients globally through innovation in therapeutics and delivery.

    In November 2023, the UK DRI announced a partnership with SPARC, aiming to fund vital research into the mechanisms underlying neurodegeneration. The first phase of the partnership kicked off with one research project.


  • Ono

    Ono is an R&D-oriented pharmaceutical company focused on drug discovery and development, aiming to identify and develop innovative and breakthrough medications for diseases with a high unmet medical need.

    In December 2023, the UK DRI announced a partnership with Ono, alongside the funding of multiple projects.


Fostering translational projects

When it comes to translating research from bench to bedside, external investment can be difficult to secure without pre-clinical analysis, feasibility studies or proof-of-concept. To address this need, we launched the UK DRI Translation Award programme, giving our researchers the opportunity to secure funds for pre-clinical analysis, drug target validation or other work directly related to finding treatments.

Find out more about the projects funded in the first round of our Translation Award programme

Partnership opportunities

We are currently seeking partnerships for the following projects. Please do get in touch if you would like to find out more.

- Diagnostic prototype for dementia detection
- Codon optimisation of Cas proteins
- A novel C9AFTD/ALS therapy

Keep in touch

If you are interested in partnering with us or would like to discuss any research in greater detail, please contact our Director of Innovation and Business, Kay Penicud.

If you would like to keep updated on UK DRI activities in translation and innovation, sign up to our quarterly translation newsletter.