Spending Review 2010 - HC 618Written evidence submitted by Cancer Research UK (SR 25)

Summary

Cancer Research UK is leading the world in finding new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer. We are the largest independent funder of cancer research in Europe. Over half of all cancer research in the UK is carried out by our doctors and scientists, who have made significant contributions to half of the top 30 drugs used to treat cancer patients worldwide today. Cancer Research UK’s work is entirely funded by the public and in 2009–10 we spent £334 million on research, supporting the work of more than 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses. We receive no government funding for our research and each year, we fund an extensive programme of cancer research in hospitals, institutes and universities. Our groundbreaking work has saved millions of lives.

A world class science base in the UK is vital to maintaining and enhancing the health and prosperity of the nation now and in the future. To date, one of the strengths of the UK research base has been its ability to leverage funding from sources outside the public purse. Industry, charities and the government have different but complementary roles as research funders. The synergistic nature of these relationships, and how they link with the unique resource provided by the NHS and universities, is a vital asset to UK biomedical research.

Cancer Research UK welcomes the opportunity to respond to this inquiry. The following are our key points:

We feel that it is currently too early to detect impacts on the research environment based on the outcome of the 2010 spending review.

The life sciences sector now needs stability, predictability and security through sensible regulation and prolonged investment to allow it to grow. For these reasons, Cancer Research UK would like to see a long-term strategy for investment and growth in science beyond 2014–15, to include commitments to jointly funded Institutes.

Cancer Research UK, along with the other major medical research charities in the UK, is calling for a long-term government commitment to the charity support element of QR funding allocated to universities (known as the Charity Research Support Fund).

We look forward to further detail from government outlining how they will take forward the announcements in the Plan for Growth.

Continuing government commitment to science remains vital for the future of the medical research landscape in the UK.

Protecting the Unique Relationship between Government and Charity Funding for Research

The UK is unique in that charity funded research is such a major contributor to the strength and impact of the UK science base, especially in medical sectors. Members of the Association of Medical Research Charities funded £1.1 billion of research in the UK in 2010–11 alone.

The results of the Research Assessment Exercise announced in December 2008 demonstrated the contribution that charities were making to the quality of research conducted in UK universities. In all the scientific and medical-related subjects, cancer studies received the top rating, with around 80% of the studies being funded by charities, the majority from Cancer Research UK. Medical research charities have been able to fully integrate their work with universities, and the collaborative environment that this has created has realised significant benefits for science in the UK.

Medical research charities have consistently been a strong partner in funding medical research, and have continually invested in research in universities. Cancer Research UK alone spent £163 million in 2009–10 in UK universities. Charities choose to fund research in UK universities because of the world-class research environments that they provide. The Quality Research block grant from the Higher Education Funding Council for England builds strong, autonomous universities by giving them the stability, flexibility and freedom to make strategic decisions about their own research activities. The charity support element of QR funding (also known as the Charity Research Support Fund (CRSF)) is a vital element of this as it enables Government funding to leverage additional partnership funding from the charity sector, with approximately 15% of research income at UK universities coming from UK-based charities.

While the level of CRSF has been maintained for the current year, we were disappointed that the government did not take the opportunity to give this a longer term grounding in the budget allocations to 2014–15. Cancer Research UK, along with the other major medical research charities in the UK, is calling for a long-term government commitment to the CRSF. The continued existence of the CRSF and equivalents affects the entire medical research landscape in the UK. Universities and charities need to be able to plan their future funding and research strategies with the secure knowledge that the charity support element of Quality Related (QR) funding will continue. If a commitment is only made on a yearly basis (as is currently happening) this could lead to attrition of the research base, and could disproportionately affect progress in medical research in universities, where the majority of charitable funding is focused. A long-term commitment to this partnership will enable innovative research to continue to be funded by charities in universities and ensure university infrastructure is sustainable over time.

Continued Support for Jointly Funded Institutes

Although funding allocations up until 2014–15 have been indicated as part of the spending review it is important to highlight the long-term commitments in major jointly funded institutes, that will require commitment beyond 2014–15.

Cancer Research UK is partnering with the Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust, University College London, Imperial College London and King’s College London to build the UKCMRI. The vision for the UKCMRI is to create a world class research centre that will tackle some of the biggest medical challenges society faces. This will be the largest biomedical research centre in Europe. The project aims to find new ways to treat diseases such as cancer, and will bring together the best scientists, doctors and researchers. Bringing together the leading research organisations will allow scientists to collaborate widely as well as share cutting-edge resources and knowledge. Continuing to support the creation of this ground-breaking Institute is a clear demonstration of the Government’s long-term commitment to investment in science.

However the UKCMRI is not the only example of a jointly funded research enterprise that requires a long-term commitment and strategy to enable security and stability. For example, Cancer Research UK and the MRC jointly fund the Gray Institute for Radiation, Oncology and Biology in Oxford (GI-ROB). GI-ROB is leading the way in re-establishing the UK as a world leader in radiotherapy and radiobiology research.

One further example is the Experimental Cancer Medicine Centres network, a joint initiative between Cancer Research UK and the departments of health for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, who together are investing £35 million in infrastructure support over five years. They bring together laboratory and clinical patient-based research to drive the development of biomarkers and new anti-cancer treatments.

When considering the long term science environment within the UK it is vital that funding streams supporting joint initiatives such as those listed above are taken into consideration, as decisions on these will be taken throughout the spending review period.

Life Sciences as Area of Growth

Despite a relatively small budget and population compared with our competitors overseas, the UK has traditionally been a world leader in research to understand and treat disease. Our scientific publications produce over 12% of the world’s citations in both the clinical and health sciences and we have created nearly a quarter of the world’s top 100 medicines. , The life sciences sector is vitally important in driving the economic recovery. The Government has demonstrated its commitment to research by ring-fencing the science budget within the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and increasing investment though the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

The sector now needs stability, predictability and security through sensible regulation and prolonged investment to allow it to grow. For these reasons, Cancer Research UK would like to see a long-term strategy for investment in science.

The publication of the Government’s Plan for Growth contained a number of proposals to drive growth in the area of life sciences. In particular, Cancer Research UK welcomed the emphasis within the Budget and associated Plan for Growth to remove barriers to setting up clinical research studies in the UK. We feel it is absolutely critical that these barriers are removed in order that the UK is an attractive place to conduct health research and, most importantly, so that patients can benefit. We believe that as many patients as possible should have the opportunity to take part in timely research.

The announcements contained with the Plan for Growth represent a step forward in implementing the recommendations of the Academy of Medical Sciences review, which Cancer Research UK supports. We look forward to hearing more from Government as to how these announcements will be taken forward, and will seek to work closely with them to ensure they are implemented effectively.

However, these announcements in themselves do not replace the need for the development of a comprehensive long term strategy for science, which looks not only at the funding environment required but also other key elements such as ensuring we have the right people and infrastructure in place in the UK.

Interdependency between Public and Charitable Medical Research

To understand more about how charities’ investment in medical research can contribute to stimulating economic growth, Cancer Research UK has commissioned the Office of Health Economics to look at the interdependency of different medical research funders in supporting the research base.

Drawing from the experience of public, charity and private funders and leading academics, the recently published report highlights the value that the combination of public sector and charity funding brings to medical research. The key findings of the report are that Government funding for medical research has an impact on:

GDP through stimulating additional investment in private sector R&D;

charities by helping them to operate more efficiently through economies of scale;

the ability of charities to raise funds;

charitable contributions to research; and

UK patients’ healthcare.

The report identifies specific financial and qualitative benefits from the UK’s partnership approach to funding medical research. By sharing the costs and risks associated with research, UK funders contribute to a stable flow of financial support for research.

The strong base provided by public sector infrastructure support allows profit and non-profit funders to focus their efforts on direct funding for specific projects. This model not only creates economies of scale but also greater opportunities for co-funding of large-scale research. Experience and expertise shared amongst funders, and the creation of a competitive research environment, also drives up research quality across the board.

This report also shows an additional benefit for charities of continued government investment in the science base. Giving priority to science funding acts as a signal of quality, and value, for this research, and thus stimulates further private investment in the charities sector.

This report adds weight to the Government’s Spending Review commitments to invest in science. It also provides an important new perspective on the impact that future cuts could have on the delicate balance between the dedicated funding streams of UK research.

27 April 2011

Prepared 7th November 2011