Our Chief Executive on Brexit negotiations and future of medical research

23 June 2017        

a researcher looking into a microscope

Our Chief Executive talks about the importance of the Brexit negotiations to the future of medical research and the fight against heart disease.

There are three key areas where the decision to leave the EU is likely to impact on research, which we would like to see prioritised during negotiations and related decisions.

These relate to access to European funding streams, free movement of researchers and professionals between the UK and EU, and the regulation of research and licensing of medicines. 

Future of medical research

Simon Gillespie, our Chief Executive, says: "This week, as the dust settles on the general election and we attempt to comprehend the unpredictability of British politics, Brexit negotiations have begun and we mark a year since an historic referendum which decided the future direction of our country. To say that we live in uncertain times would be an understatement.

"The research community feels this uncertainty too. As a net beneficiary of the EU’s large research funding programmes, it stands to lose significant sums unless continued access to that funding can be negotiated, or the funding replaced by the post-Brexit UK Government. Amid this turmoil, medical research in labs across the UK goes on. Just this month, at the British Cardiovascular Society’s annual conference, we saw the amazing discoveries that are being made right now. From researchers we fund at the University of Oxford who’ve discovered a new drug to help heart attack patients’ hearts heal, to a genetic discovery that’s uncovered the cause of a mysterious and potentially-deadly heart condition which affects women during or just after pregnancy. There is much that gives us hope for the future.

"This kind of research is only possible with investment from charities like us. Indeed, now more than ever, when the research community finds itself facing the biggest changes in a generation, charities can help to provide the stability and certainty that is needed. This isn’t insignificant; charities fund 45% of publicly funded medical research, an investment totalling £1.6 billion in 2016. Indeed, charities have consistently invested more than £1bn in research in each of the past nine years. We are playing our part; as the UK’s largest independent funder of cardiovascular disease, we aim to fund around £100 million of new research each year. This is research that holds the answers to some of the biggest challenges our society faces.

"Disease doesn’t respect the result of an election, or one country’s decision to change its relationship with its neighbours. While politicians continue to grapple with the fallout one year on from that decision, 435 people will lose their lives to heart disease every day, 110 of those will be under 75 years old. As medical research charities, we have a duty to people across the UK to ensure that the research that will change those numbers continues to thrive. Government has their part to play too and continued access to funding for research that drives collaboration and promotes mobility is essential. Our commitment to these people has never been stronger."