Female lab technician observing a slide in a microscope

Charity research funding crisis could irreparably damage UK research

The UK’s position as world-leading in science could be put under serious and long-term threat as a result of an ongoing crisis in charity research funding, as a result of Covid-19, according to a collective of medical charity CEOs.

The CEOs of the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC), the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and Cancer Research UK (CRUK) have warned that without Government intervention and support, progress in a range of fields could be hampered.

Medical research charities make up a significant part of the UK research landscape, contributing to the discovery and development of potentially life-saving treatments and injecting some £1.9bn in 2019 alone into the field.

A significant fall in fundraising revenue as a result of the coronavirus pandemic has left these medical research charities in a difficult position, with the heads of key organisations warning the damage could be beyond repair if allowed to continue unsupported – threatening the UK’s position as a leading hub for science.

As a result of Covid-19, medical research charities have been forced to make dramatic cuts to their research budgets. The BHF has reduced its research spend by half this year, while CRUK has cut £44m from its research portfolio over the same period.

Over 17,000 scientists are supported by charity funding.

The reduction in available funding is believed to be causing a significant number within the field, particularly those earlier in their careers, to consider potentially leave research.

The charity CEOs warned that, once lost from research, this generation of scientists would take decades to replace, leading to an inevitable slowing down of scientific progress within the UK.

Aisling Burnand, Chief Executive of the Association of Medical Research Charities, said: “So far, we’ve seen nothing from Government to support charity-funded medical research. The upcoming Spending Review could be a turning point.

“Many of our members are already making incredibly difficult decisions, and if we don’t see a commitment to a Life Sciences Charity Partnership Fund in the Spending Review, they will be forced to make further cuts to vital research. This will stall progress towards new treatments and therapies impacting the lives of countless people.

“Ultimately, it will be patients who will suffer the consequences.

 “Its crucial charitable medical research is supported over the next three years if we are to ensure the UK has the capacity to tackle our biggest health challenges including Covid-19.”

Dr Charmaine Griffiths, Chief Executive of the British Heart Foundation, added: “To overlook the scale of research funded by charities at this critical time would put life-saving discoveries at risk, threaten our economic recovery and jeopardise the Government’s ambition to make the UK a global ‘science superpower'.

“Charities have driven significant breakthroughs which have turned the tide on some of our biggest killers including heart disease and cancer.

“But without Government commitment to a Life Sciences-Charity Partnership Fund in the upcoming Spending Review, charities will be forced to make devastating cuts to their research which will be hugely damaging for patients and UK science.”

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