Making a difference: Impact report 2017

Stimulating further research via new funding or partnerships

Chapter Five

Stimulating further research via new funding or partnerships

Introduction

For medical research to achieve maximum success, it needs funding from multiple sources and the development of partnerships with other researchers, companies and patients groups. By leveraging further funding and working with partners, it means that the research funded by charities is leading to increased investment and expanded networks of influence.

Stimulating further research can be split into two aspects:

Key stats

Further funding

The UK charity funding landscape is diverse; with many small funders (over half of AMRC's members spend less than £1m on research per annum). These funders cannot support large research programmes, but hope by supporting pilot studies and 'early' awards that they can enable researchers to gain awards from larger funders.

For larger funders, having further investment from other sources is also a way of ensuring that the risk of research is spread and allows money to be 'freed up' for new endeavours.

30% (1,563) of 5,287 awards generated 4,832 examples of further funding. 4,398 of these were unique examples and amounted to almost £2bn

Where there was further funding linked to an award:

Figure 14 Figure 14. Number of further funding instances per award. See Figure A1.11 in appendix 1 for a breakdown of these numbers.

Types of funders providing further funding:

Countries providing further funding:

Figure 15 Figure 15. Top 4 providers of further funding. For further information see appendix 1.


Case study: Epilepsy Research UK

Research into the causes of epilepsy led to the discovery of a new treatment area, which is now being developed using MRC funding.

Epilepsy is a common neurological condition that affects about 1 in 100 people, around 30% of whom do not respond to currently available treatments. People with epilepsy have recurrent seizures, which are caused by too much electrical activity in the brain. The nerve cells in the brain use electrical impulses to transmit and process information, a process normally regulated by the entry and exit of many different ions through channels in the cell surface. Epilepsy Research UK funded Professor Matthew Walker and colleagues to investigate whether epilepsy had an effect on the numbers or function of these channels.

The team discovered that, following a prolonged seizure, the number of a particular potassium channel decreased causing certain nerve cells to ‘fire’ too many electrical impulses, generating further seizures.Epilepsy Research UK Crucially the researchers then found that by using viral gene therapy to deliver an increased amount of this particular channel to the seizure source, they could cure epilepsy in a model system.

The researchers used the knowledge and data generated during the Epilepsy Research UK award to secure a £2.5 million award from the MRC, to continue developing this exciting new form of therapy for epilepsy.

“The grant enabled us not only to carry out experiments that have given us fundamental insights into the regulation of brain excitability, but also to secure funding from the MRC to expand our findings. This will hopefully lead to the development of new treatment strategies.” - Researcher Perspective


Partnerships

Research is a collaborative endeavour and the ability of researchers to forge partnerships with other researchers, companies and patient organisations allows research ideas to develop and be translated into new treatments, products or areas of understanding that will ultimately help patients.

35% (1,859) of 5,287 awards generated 7,184 partnerships, 6,560 of these were unique [1]

Of these partnerships:

Figure 16 Figure 16. Number of partners per award

Types of partners:

Countries where partners were based:

For further information see appendix 1.


Case study: Ataxia UK

Ataxia UK helped establish a collaborative drug development programme funded by Pfizer to develop a treatment for Friedreich’s ataxia.

Ataxias are a group of rare neurological disorders that affect balance, coordination, and speech in 10,000 adults and 500 children in the UK. Traditionally developing treatments for such rare diseases has been a significant challenge due to the small, geographically spread patient populations making it harder to collect samples for basic research and increasing the difficulty of running effective clinical trials.

One of Ataxia UK’s aims, set out in their 2012 research strategy, is to find a treatment or cure for one or more of the ataxias by 2020. To help achieve this goal the charity sought to increase engagement and collaboration with pharmaceutical companies. From an initial conversation with Pfizer at a rare disease conference Ataxia UK went on to gather and coordinate a group of ataxia academic experts helping them develop and submit a successful funding application to Pfizer’s rare disease consortium initiative.Ataxia UK

Consequently the Friedreich’s ataxia collaborative drug development programme was established, giving world class ataxia academic researchers the funding, resources and expertise from industry scientists. Ataxia UK remains a critical part of the team due to their wealth of experience about the condition and their ability to bridge the gaps between patients, researchers and industry. This shows how even small research budgets can still play a huge role in driving research forward.

“Working in partnership with researchers, industry partners and patients is essential to drive research forwards at a fast pace.” Charity Perspective


References

  1. Unique outputs refer to the actual number of outputs generated. The number of total outputs is higher because this figure includes outputs that have been attributed to more than one award. ↩︎