MPs support a healthy future for UK medical research

On 16 June, MPs and peers from across Parliament met with biomedical scientists to hear about how their groundbreaking research is helping to tackle conditions such as cancer, dementia, eye disease, Parkinson's, and brain injury in newborn babies.

The reception, organised by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Medical Research, brought together researchers, patients, parliamentarians and government ministers to discuss how long-term public support and investment can ensure that the UK's medical research sector continues to make a huge difference to the health and wealth of the nation.

The Wellcome Trust showcased the work of Professor Robert MacLaren and a new gene therapy he's developing to tackle a form of blindness. Choroideremia is an incurable degenerative disease that causes progressive loss of vision. A multicentre programme to develop and test the safety of a gene therapy treatment for the condition is underway at the University of Oxford, funded through the Health Innovation Challenge Fund – a partnership between the Wellcome Trust and the Department of Health which aims to accelerate the clinical application of innovative research and development.

The reception also saw the launch of the study 'What's It Worth? Estimating the economic benefits of cancer-related research in the UK' and a linked briefing for MPs. The report – commissioned by the Academy of Medical Sciences, Cancer Research UK, the Department of Health and the Wellcome Trust – is the one of the first ever estimates of the economic gains from investment in publicly and charitably funded UK cancer research. It found that each pound invested by the taxpayer and charities in cancer research generates a stream of benefits equal to earning 40 pence a year thereafter.

Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust, said: "Investing in medical research guarantees a return for the UK, not just in discoveries that lead to better health, but also in economic terms. The Wellcome Trust is the UK's largest charity, investing £750 million annually in medical research, but we are fortunate to be part of a larger research ecosystem including government, universities, industry and a breadth of patient charities. Only together, and with a long-term, stable commitment to research, can we continue to transform the health of patients in the UK."