The UK’s medical research charities are calling for urgent financial support following decimation of research income amid the coronavirus pandemic.
More than 60 of the country’s top cardiovascular disease and cancer research scientists have signed an open letter to the Prime Minister urging that “swift action to invest in a Life Sciences-Charity Partnership Fund to protect the vital and unique contribution charity-funded biomedical research makes to the UK’s R&D ecosystem and the wider economy.”
The scientists voice concern that recent funding action from government for universities and charities will not be enough to address the significant shortfall in medical research charity investment in the UK science base.
Last year, medical research charities invested £1.9 billion into UK research, but cancelled fundraising events and shop closures due to coronavirus have fuelled an unprecedented funding crisis.
Cancer Research UK has already warned that it could be forced to cut £150 million per year from its research funding, while the BHF said it could have to cut its research spend by half this year – from £100 million to around £50 million.
“Without immediate action, the UK’s research base faces a devastating fall in funding that will delay progress in discovering new ways of preventing, diagnosing and treating diseases including heart attack, stroke and vascular dementia,” said Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, medical director at the BHF.
“We also risk losing a generation of promising young researchers and diminishing the UK’s standing as a world leader in science. We cannot afford to let this happen during a pandemic which has underlined the critical role science and research play in the UK’s healthcare and economy.”
“The call for a Life Sciences – Charity Partnership Fund, now backed by many of the country’s most eminent scientists, is about far more than supporting charities. It would represent a government investment in UK research, returned many times over in terms of the world leading scientific discoveries it enables, the fuel it provides to the UK economy, and the lives that will be saved through the treatments and cures that will follow.
With the Chancellor setting out a plan for the UK’s economic recovery tomorrow, stabilising UK science should be at the heart of it.”
The proposal – a co-investment scheme that provides a level of match funding for future research over the next three to five years – is supported by the Association of Medical Research Charities and 151 of its charity members.
“It’s imperative that the government urgently works with medical research charities to come to a solution, so that decades of investment in UK research is not lost in a matter of months,” said Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive.
“If the government believes in improving cancer survival, ensuring the UK retains its position as a global scientific power, and protecting our talented scientists, it must support the UK’s research charities in their time of need. We know that with support we can help get research back on track, along with the many benefits this brings to the economy.
“But, ultimately it will be patients who will miss out on life-saving discoveries if the Charity Partnership Fund isn’t backed by government, which is heartbreaking and preventable.”