Michael Schneider, BHF Simon Marks Professor of Regenerative Cardiology at Imperial College London, writes about how important both government support and our funding is to his research.
I want to mend broken hearts. In my lab at the National Heart & Lung Institute we’re working on regenerative techniques that could be used repair the heart after it has been damaged by a heart attack. We’ve learnt a tremendous amount about how we might trigger repair in the heart and every day I’m excited by progress the team is making.
As a BHF Professor, I’m always mindful that my work is only possible because of the generosity of donors and volunteers. The BHF is unique in the level and intensity to which it supports cardiovascular research – over half of what happens at UK universities. But I’m also acutely aware that the BHF cannot support the entirety of cardiovascular research in this country, though its contribution is immense and irreplaceable.
A partnership of funding sources
Medical research in the UK, not just cardiovascular, is made possible by a robust partnership among all the potential funding sources. Those sources include charities like the BHF, the Wellcome Trust or Cancer Research UK but also government funding from the Research Councils such as the Medical Research Council (MRC).
In my own case, a collaboration with Imperial’s drug discovery unit was partially made possible by the MRC. We’re finding new compounds that protect human heart muscle, grown in the lab, from death and damage. This could lead to drugs that reduce the size of heart attacks in people. Government funding for science is clearly vital.
Science is vital
I was shocked by figures, highlighted last week by the campaign group Science is Vital, which showed the UK government’s investment in science is now below 0.5 per cent of GDP. This puts the UK at the bottom of all G8 nations, and just twelfth within the EU. I am strongly backing the BHF’s call for the next government to at least maintain the ring fence on science funding and commit to future increases.
If the science budget isn’t maintained, your donations will not go as far. We currently benefit from the Charity Research Support Fund which means the government pays for the indirect costs of research, like the heating and lighting, so that every pound we get from the BHF can go on the research itself.
As a lab leader, I will quickly see the impact of cuts in the science budget. I’ve seen it while I worked in university laboratories in the US. The talented trainee researchers, who should go on to be the next generation of scientific leaders, will start to leave science for work with more financial security. This will be a huge loss. These are the scientists best able to build on the pioneering research that’s currently happening. Progress in our fight to find new treatments for heart patients would almost certainly be slowed.
I’m passionate about my work and grateful to all the BHF supporters who make it possible. But we will be able to mend broken hearts much sooner if the next government recognises that science is vital by committing to maintain the science budget and increasing it in the future.
You can help us call on the next government to maintain the ring-fenced science budget to deliver a sector in which our life saving research can go further.
Tell your MP