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Why the BSI supports the medical research charity sector

Research fundingAcross the country, BSI members carry out important research looking into how the immune system is involved in diseases and delivering vital health benefits to patients. To do so, they often rely on funding from medical research charities, which has been severely affected due to the COVID-19 crisis. This sudden drop in research funding will have serious consequences in the medical and immunology research landscape.

In this blog, our CEO, Dr Doug Brown, discusses why the BSI supports the medical research charity sector. Scroll down to find out what you can do to support this campaign.

Immunology is at the forefront of medical discovery and treatment. Exciting steps forward, driven by medical research, have revealed that the immune system is not only involved traditional areas such as autoimmune (e.g. arthritis, type 1 diabetes) and infectious diseases, but also in the pathology of many different diseases, including heart disease, cancer, mental health and dementia, to name a few. With this knowledge comes great potential for us to learn more about how the immune system is involved in the development of these diseases, research new diagnostics and develop new treatments and therapies that target and/or utilise the immune system. 

This is exactly the type of research that members of the British Society for Immunology are involved in every day in labs and hospitals across the country. To carry out this vital work that has such potential to positively impact patients’ lives, immunologists often rely on funding from medical research charities. These charities are familiar names to many of us and they provide both support to individuals with the disease, but also critical funding for scientists and clinicians to carry out research on their disease areas. 

However, due to the COVID-19 crisis, many of these charities have reported a serious drop in income, which means they will need to scale back their research activities. For example, Cancer Research UK are looking to reduce their research budget by £150 million per year, while the British Heart Foundation looks to cut their spend in this area by £50 million per year. These cuts will have a serious effect on the medical and immunology research landscape. Less research funding means that our scientists won’t be able to take forward their studies finding out how the immune system is involved in diseases. It will mean that researchers will be able to run fewer clinical trials, a critical mechanism to develop cutting-edge treatments for patients.

The ultimate outcome will be that research will move forward more slowly and take longer to deliver vital health benefits to patients.

This sudden funding drop will also likely have a serious effect on researchers’ careers, in particular early-career researchers who need the support to become our future scientific leaders. The impact of this reduction in research funding will be felt for years to come.

This is why the British Society for Immunology supports the Association of Medical Research Charities’ call to Government to sign up to their proposed Life Sciences-Charity Partnership Fund. This scheme would provide a level of match funding from Government for future charity research over the next three years. This would not only bridge the current funding gap for research charities, but would also retain their unique and vital contribution to medical research, society and the economy at large.

The UK is a world leader in immunology research, and medical charities are a critical part of this ecosystem. By providing strategic support to medical research charities to get through the current unprecedented situation, the Government and the country would be rewarded with a better skilled, more diverse and resilient life sciences sector that would be ideally positioned to build on the UK’s reputation for excellence in medical research and deliver clear benefits for patients, for society and for the economy as a whole.  

Dr Doug Brown, Chief Executive, British Society for Immunology

What can you do to support this campaign?