With dementia affecting all populations globally, UNSW Sydney’s Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA) today announces the launch of Dementias Platform Australia (DPAU) in partnership with the already established Dementias Platform UK (DPUK), with a collective vision of accelerating new discoveries in the understanding and diagnosis of dementia.
The collaboration, which allows for access to research data from multiple dementia studies carried out in Australia, the Asia-Pacific region and beyond to all six continents, will enable new insights into ageing, age-related diseases and risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
Professor John Gallacher, Director of DPUK, said: “It’s hugely exciting to see how the dementia research community in Australia is thriving.”
The close partnership between DPUK and DPAU will enable us to share technical assets and best practice, and to facilitate international data analysis. Science is data-driven, and we can help accelerate progress in dementia research by working together at a global level to improve data access.
Professor John Gallacher, DPUK Director
“The aim is to transform the study and determinants of ageing and dementia and make it truly global,” says Professor Perminder Sachdev, Co-Director of CHeBA.
The challenges posed by dementia are complex. Addressing them requires many smaller pieces of a puzzle to come together to increase our understanding of brain function and of the risks that genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors pose to healthy brain ageing. While the contribution of one research participant, one researcher or one study is often modest, the ability to combine data across many studies has a potential not yet fully realised.
The DPAU platform, which uses secure technology deployed at Monash University, will house data on physical and brain health from studies conducted around the world. Monash SeRP is a secure, trusted and scalable environment for data sharing, governance, control and management services for researchers.
The DPAU will complement the DPUK and other satellite dementias platforms, forming a network of dementia studies in a truly global effort to defeat dementia.
According to Dr Vibeke Catts, Research Manager at CHeBA and project leader of DPAU, dementia research will be reshaped through the hosting of data from international longitudinal and cross-sectional studies of brain ageing.
“The impact that health and medical research has on society cannot be underestimated,” says Dr Catts.
“DPAU allows for critical information about disease trends and risk factors, outcomes of treatment or public health interventions as well as methods of care and associated costs.”
Through DPAU and our partnership with DPUK, we will be able to securely share and analyse all research data – including such factors as genomics and medical imaging.
Dr Vibeke Catts, CHeBA Research Manager and DPAU Project Leader
Initially, DPAU will launch with data from one of CHeBA’s main consortia – Cohort Studies of Memory in International Consortium (COSMIC) – comprising 44 cohort studies from 33 countries and involving more than 150,000 individual research participants. DPAU will also host the data governed by the CHeBA Research Bank, including its Memory and Ageing Study, Sydney Centenarian Study and the Older Australian Twins Study. Data from these studies represent the work of CHeBA researchers funded by eight NHMRC grants over the last 13 years and have already formed the basis of over 250 research publications.
“Making the data available via DPAU will ensure that the generous contribution of time given by CHeBA research participants will continue to yield new clues to the causes of dementia well into the future,” says Dr Catts.
DPAU is funded by a grant from the National Institute of Health (NIH) to the Cohort Studies of Memory in an International Consortium (COSMIC) led by Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA) Co-Director Professor Perminder Sachdev. COSMIC aims to identify risk and protective factors and biomarkers of cognitive ageing and dementia in diverse ethno-racial groups and geographical settings and currently comprises data from 44 studies across the globe. NIH funding of US$299,204 was granted in 2020 to establish a formalised data archive and enclave to address the limitations of data archiving and sharing within COSMIC.
DPAU access to the Secure eResearch Platform (SeRP) technology hosted at Monash University is supported by a National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) investment [P20E-058] [https://doi.org/10.47486/PL058] from Australian Research Data Commons’ (ARDC) 2020 Platforms program, led by Monash University, and involving five other Australian universities.