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Terry Pratchett to donate $1 million towards Alzheimer's research

Terry Pratchett

Story by Jack Foley

FANTASY author Terry Pratchett is to donate $1m towards research into Alzheimer’s disease, it has been announced.

The acclaimed writer, best-known for his Discworld series, was diagnosed with a rare early-onset form of the disease in December 2007 and revealed the donation of roughly £494,000 at the annual conference of the Alzheimer’s Research Trust.

The 59-year-old went on to speak of his determination to find a cure for the condition, adding: “I intend to scream and harangue while there is time.”

Mr Pratchett has a rare form of the disease, known as posterior cortical atrophy, in which areas at the back of the brain begin to shrink. He admits that he has started to feel its effects upon him and has given up his driving licence as a result.

However, he continues to write, even though he sometimes has problems with the typewriter.

Mr Pratchett also revealed that he is having to pay for the Alzheimer’s drug Aricept because the NHS says he is too young to get it for free – there are currently an estimated 15,000 people in the UK with early-onset dementia, which is known to strike under the age of 65 years. A further 700,000 people have full-blown Alzheimer’s disease.

Reiterating his determination to beat the disease, the author told the conference: “I am, along with many others, scrabbling to stay ahead long enough to be there when the cure comes along.”

But he confessed to being surprised at the lack of funding to help doctors and scientists establish potentially life-saving breakthroughs, which prompted him to make the donation.

“It’s a shock to find out that funding for Alzheimer’s research is just 3% of that to find cancer cures,” he added.

According to figures released by the Alzheimer’s Research Trust, only an estimated £11 per patient is spent annually on research into the disease compared with £289 for each cancer patient.

And Rebecca Wood, chief executive of the Trust, told the BBC that it currently had to turn down two out of every three research projects due to lack of funds.

She went on to pay tribute to Mr Pratchett’s bravery in speaking publicly about his personal experiences with the disease and his determination to help secure more funding, adding: “Research is the only way to beat this disease and help people like Terry to prevent them losing their thinking skills and keep them doing the things they love.”