Top scientists call for funding boost for medical charities

Medical research charities have received the backing from more than 60 scientists in their bid to halt a “catastrophic fall in charity research funding” due to Covid-19

The scientists, in areas including cancer research and treating cardiovascular disease, have written an open letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling for urgent support for this area of the charity sector.

It calls on the government to “take swift action” to investment in a Life Sciences-Charity Partnership Fund that will “protect the vital and unique contribution charity-funded biomedical research makes to the UK’s R&D ecosystem and wider economy”.

The move comes as the NCVO warns in its 2020 Almanac that many charities are left vulnerable through an increasing reliance on public fundraising and less on government funding.

British Heart Foundation (BHF) medical director Professor Sir Nilesh Samani said: “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.”

Charity infrastructure body the Association of Medical Research Charities and 151 of its charity members, are also backing the call for more funding. The AMRC estimated that funding for the medical research sector has dropped by £310m this financial year.

The BHF currently supports £446m worth of research at 47 institutions across the UK. Meanwhile Cancer Research UK (CRUK) spent £442m in 2018/19 on cancer research.

The letter from the medical experts to the Prime Minister added: “The funding provided by charities plays a unique role within the wider funding mix, supporting high-risk discovery science that drives the breakthroughs in our fields (and others), as well as de-risking projects to attract commercial investment and supporting clinical trials that bring the latest innovations and life-saving treatments to patients.

“Charity funding invests in skills and has supported many of us earlier in our careers, allowing us to continue to build our expertise within the UK system, adding to the strength of its research base and building the U.K’s global reputation for research excellence.

“However, both the BHF and CRUK are now seeing their incomes decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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