Cancer Research UK Announces ‘Devastating’ Research Cuts Due to COVID-19

Cancer Research UK (CRUK), the world’s largest cancer research charity, has announced that it has had to make ‘devastating’ cuts to research funding of £45 million due to the ongoing impacts of the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic, representing half of what the charity would normally expect to fund in this time.

The announcement follows previous cuts made at the start of the pandemic, and comes after the news in July 2020 that the charity would reduce the amount it spends on research funding over the next four to five years from £400 million to £250 million, along with the loss of around 500 jobs, just under 24% of its current workforce.

The £45 million figure represents:

12 fewer fellowships.

24 fewer research programmes.

68 fewer projects.

Around 328 fewer researchers.

The majority of the cuts affect CRUK’s response mode funding, which makes up around a third of the charity’s research and invites researchers to apply for new projects, clinical trials and fellowships. The charity estimates that 100 fewer grants will be funded, covering a range of work including long-term, multi-million pound research programmes, specific research projects, and fellowships supporting scientists at all career stages. The effects are expected to be long-term, with CRUK expressing concerns that it will lead to fewer breakthroughs and jeopardise the charity’s own goal of ensuring that three in four people with cancer survive their diagnosis by 2034.

CRUK’s Chief Scientist Professor Karen Vousden said:

‘It has a knock-on effect. People who do basic research, fundamental research, a lot of them can answer very important and exciting research questions that are not necessarily cancer research questions. So we lose these very clever researchers, who think “you know, there’s no funding here. I’m going to start working on a different topic.” Will they ever come back to us?’

In a bleak note for the future, the charity also warned that further cuts will be necessary at the next funding round in the spring without government support or more charitable giving. CRUK urged the Government to commit to ensuring that the £14.6 billion allocated to research next year would include medical research charities.

CRUK’s executive director of research and innovation Dr Iain Foulkes said:

‘We need urgent clarification to what measures are being put in place to support medical research charities through the Life Sciences Charity Partnership Fund. As a country that relies so heavily on charity-funded research, the UK risks weakening its reputation as a world-leader in science if charities don’t receive the right support.’

RESEARCHconnect provides up-to-the minute content, insight and analysis on research funding news and policy. To find out more about how RESEARCHconnect can keep you in the know, and subscription fees, contact us today.