We’re supporting the AMRC’s call for urgent government support for medical research – by Elizabeth Robertson

The Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) are asking the government to act now to save charity-funded research. They’re calling for £313 million to bridge the loss of income charities are expecting as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Our Director of Research, Dr Elizabeth Robertson, explains why research is at risk and why we’re supporting the AMRC’s call.

Back in April we made funding available for scientists to research coronavirus (Covid-19) and diabetes, as it was increasingly clear that this pandemic was having an adverse effect on people living with diabetes here and across the world. We have just announced that we are funding a number of critical Covid-19 research projects, in partnership with other charities. They will be vital in helping us understand why people living with diabetes are disproportionately affected by Covid-19.

We took this action in the face of the biggest drop in income the medical research charity sector has ever predicted as a result of the extreme challenges to the UK economy due to lockdown. We alone are predicting a drop of 30% in our income in 2020. Despite this we funded research into Covid-19 because it was and is the right thing to do for people living with diabetes. But we cannot continue to invest at the same level in new research without government support.

The 4.7 million people living with diabetes in the UK are increasingly worried – they want to know why this virus appears to cause worse outcomes in people living with diabetes. They want to know how they can avoid getting the virus. They want to know how to effectively manage their diabetes if they are infected and during lockdown. They want to know how it will affect progression of their condition if they are infected and recover.

We need to act fast using our networks, knowledge of the condition and understanding of the needs of people living with diabetes – 19,000 of whom got in touch with us in June alone. We need to continue to invest in the next generation of researchers who will dedicate their working lives to understanding this condition and working towards a world where diabetes can do no harm. We need to continue to invest in the type of early stage, innovative research that is so uniquely driven by the Charity sector, which drives forward areas which matter to people with diabetes and leads to real change.

This pandemic is predicted to be with us for some time and there may be future pandemics for societies to deal with.  It has radically changed the world’s perception of the importance of scientific research, the need to understand and rapidly interpret clinical data, and above all the need to ensure that people can remain healthy in the face of environmental risks.

The UK medical research charity sector is world-leading, invests £1.5 billion a year, and puts people’s health at the heart of everything we do. But medical research charities have not benefitted from the £750 million government package granted to the charity sector in April. The UK will be a much poorer place in so many ways if this sector can no longer deliver the health benefits to the millions of people in this country we are here to serve.

We are asking the government to please act now. £313 million is a small price to pay to ensure the sector can weather the financial impact of Covid-19 and continue to drive forward medical research in the UK now and in the future.

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