While there has been much in the press in recent months about the research being conducted into Covid-19 and the race to find a vaccine for the virus, there has been less mention of all the research projects that have been put on hold or delayed as a result of the global pandemic.
The Guardian reported that a group of 50 cross-party MPs, as well as a number of charities in the UK, are calling on the government to provide financial support to vital life sciences research in fields such as dementia, heart disease and cancer.
The Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) is asking for the government to support the Life Sciences-Charity Partnership Fund. The aim is that the government will provide £310 million in funding, which will be matched by the charities it helps for at least the next three years.
Several charities have revealed that the pandemic has seriously affected the funding of their work. For example, the British Heart Foundation estimates that it has lost £10 million a month as a result of the pandemic, while Cancer Research UK has revealed it will reduce its workforce by around one-quarter.
Other charities, including Great Ormond Street Hospital, Diabetes UK and Alzheimer’s Research UK have all lent their backing to the fund.
Politicians including Hilary Benn, Ed Davey and Sir Roger Gale are some of those who are calling on the government to provide this support to the country’s medical research charities.
Aisling Burnand, chief executive officer of the AMRC, told the newspaper that these charities “play an integral role” within the UK’s research sector.
“The UK’s world-leading research and development sector is one of our biggest strengths as a nation, stimulating new ideas and discoveries and playing a central role in advancing our economy, social wellbeing and health,” she asserted.
In the open letter to chancellor Rishi Sunak, the AMRC explained that medical research charities did not benefit from the £750 million already promised to charities in April.
It also revealed that charities are planning to reduce their spending on medical research by 41 per cent as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, resulting in a £310 million reduction in investment in this area in 2020.
Ms Burnand also stressed the significant contribution that medical research charities make to the UK’s research and development landscape, pointing out that collectively they have invested £14 billion since 2008, with £1.9 billion invested in medical research and development in 2019 alone.
A spokesperson for the Treasury stated that the government is working with medical research charities and others in the sector to “understand how it has been impacted and what can be done to ensure patients continue benefiting from charity-funded research”.
Earlier this month, research conducted by think tank IPPR revealed that life sciences firms in the north of the UK receive considerably less funding than those in the south of the country. Overall, organisations in the north of the UK receive £4 billion less in health research and development funding per year than their counterparts in the south.
As a result, the IPPR has recommended that the government take steps to ensure that the potential of the country’s life sciences sector in the north of the country is realised by helping channel more research and development investment to the north of the UK.
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