The British Heart Foundation (BHF) has said its research investment could halve this year due to the impact of the pandemic, and is calling for government support.
The BHF anticipates it will need to cut its annual research budget by £50m, and warns that it could take several years for funding to return to pre-pandemic levels.
The charity has said that such a sharp fall in research investment could have a catastrophic impact on UK cardiovascular research into treatments and cures for people with heart and circulatory diseases.
The charity funds over half of non-commercial research into heart and circulatory diseases in the UK, and currently supports a portfolio of £446m of research at 47 institutions across the UK.
Call for government support
It has joined the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) and more than 150 of its members, including Cancer Research UK and Parkinson’s UK, to call on the government to match charity-funded research for the next three years.
The group is asking the government to commit to a proposed Life Sciences-Charity Partnership Fund. This co-investment scheme would provide a level of match funding from government for future charity research over the next three years.
AMRC is asking for at least £310m in the financial year of 2020-21 to bridge the sector's projected research spend gap. This would be matched by funding from charities to maintain consistent research investment.
The association's members are projecting an average 41% decrease in their research spend over the next year, which amounts to a shortfall of between £252m and £368m.
Moreover, in the first phase of the pandemic, 70% of clinical trials and studies funded by AMRC charities were stopped, paused or delayed.
'The shockwaves from such a drop in funding for research will be profound'
Dr Charmaine Griffiths, chief executive of the BHF, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has been devastating for so many people, especially those with heart and circulatory diseases.
“Thanks to 60 years of public support, the BHF has grown to become the UK’s leading funder of non-commercial cardiovascular research that has saved and improved millions of lives. We now face an unprecedented research funding crisis that threatens to arrest real progress.
“The shockwaves from such a drop in funding for heart and circulatory disease research will be profound, stalling progress in making the discoveries we urgently need. We are urging government to establish a vital Life Sciences-Charity Partnership Fund to match research charity funding and help protect world-class research across the UK’s four nations.”