More than 60 research scientists have signed an open letter to the prime minister asking for urgent financial support for UK medical research charities.
Those who signed the letter are concerned that recent funding announcements from the government for universities and charities will not address the shortfall in medical research charity investment.
The letter urges the government to invest in a Life Sciences-Charity Partnership Fund to protect charity funded biomedical research.
It says that given the chancellor is setting out the UK’s economic recovery today, stabilising UK science should be at the heart of it.
The proposal is supported by the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) and 151 of its charity members. It centres around a co-investment scheme that provides a level of match funding for future charity research over the next three to five years.
The AMRC estimates a reduction in UK medical research investment of £310m this financial year, and that it could take several years for funding to return to current levels.
Last year medical research charities invested £1.9bn into UK research. Cancer Research UK (CRUK) and the British Heart Foundation (BHF) alone funded more than half of all non-commercial UK research into cancer and heart and circulatory diseases.
Given the current financial losses caused by the pandemic, CRUK has said it could be forced to cut £150m per year from its research funding, while BHF anticipates having to cut its research spend by half this year, from £100m to around £50m.
'The UK’s research base faces a devastating fall in funding'
Professor Nilesh Samani, medical director at the BHF, said: “Without immediate action, the UK’s research base faces a devastating fall in funding that will delay progress in discovering new ways of preventing, diagnosing and treating diseases including heart attack, stroke and vascular dementia.
“We also risk losing a generation of promising young researchers and diminishing the UK’s standing as a world leader in science. We cannot afford to let this happen during a pandemic which has underlined the critical role science and research play in the UK’s healthcare and economy.”
CRUK spent £442m on research into all types of cancer in 2018 and 2019, and is now asking for government support to keep the UK’s position as a leader in global cancer research.
Michelle Mitchell, chief executive at CRUK, said: “It's imperative that the government urgently works with medical research charities to come to a solution, so that decades of investment in UK research is not lost in a matter of months.
“Charities like Cancer Research UK support the careers of thousands of scientists – but this isn't just about the impact on leaders in our field of research, it’s about future generations of scientists that could lose out on opportunities.
“If the government believes in improving cancer survival, ensuring the UK retains its position as a global scientific power, and protecting our talented scientists, it must support the UK's research charities in their time of need. We know that with support we can help get research back on track, along with the many benefits this brings to the economy.
“But, ultimately it will be patients who will miss out on life-saving discoveries if the Charity Partnership Fund isn't backed by government, which is heartbreaking and preventable.”