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Covid-19 puts billions of medical research funding at risk due to lost fundraising

22 Oct 2020 News

There could be up to £7.8bn less investment into medical research by 2027, partly due to the impact of the pandemic on charity fundraising, researchers have warned.

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) looked at the impact of Covid-19 on health charities and found that the sector is set to have lost 38% of its fundraising income in the 2019/20 academic year, and more than 25% in 2020/21.

IPPR is now calling on the government to set up a life science partnership fund to make up the shortfall.

Restrictions on fundraising events, charity shop closures and wider economic uncertainty are all contributing to these losses, according to the think tank.

The £7.8bn estimate takes into account this lost charity income and adverse economic conditions.

This includes up to £4.1bn less investment in health research and development by medical research charities due to lost charitable income.

It also includes up to £3.8bn less investment from the private sector in UK health research and development due to adverse economic conditions and also as a knock-on effect from the reduction in charitable investment.

The think tank estimates that of the £3.8bn reduction in private sector investment, £1.3bn is attributable to reduced charity sector spend. 

These figures constitute a “reasonable worst-case scenario”, according to the researchers. 

In the “best-case scenario”, the study predicts £4.5bn less research and development investment. That includes £2bn which is attributable to lost charity income.

'It will only be to the detriment of all our health if we leave them – in their hour of need'

Chris Thomas, senior IPPR health fellow and lead author of the report, said: “Our new research shows that £7.8bn – £1 in every £10 of UK medical research – is now at risk. Such a loss would be a devastating blow for the country, and could be terminal for the prime minister’s ‘science superpower’ aspirations.

“The impact of Covid-19 on the fundraising income of this country’s medical research charities is the most pressing problem. Though their work is sometimes unseen, research charities are the lifeblood of UK life sciences. It will only be to the detriment of all our health if we leave them – in their hour of need – on the proverbial crash cart.

“Their investment is crucial to discovering the medicines and technologies that might, one day, save your life. We urge the government to put in place measures to keep their vital work going.”

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