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Breast Cancer Campaign’s Reception

Lord Sainsbury of Turville,  Former Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Science and Innovation
House of Lords,  17 May 2006

Lord Sainsbury of Turville

I am delighted to have this opportunity to congratulate the Breast Cancer Campaign for its significant contribution to cancer research.

The UK is a world leader in both commercial and academic medical research, and the Government believes that this is a major national asset which should be strongly supported.

By any measures UK university research has an outstanding record. We remain strong internationally in terms of achievement, productivity and efficiency. The latest report for the Office of Science and Innovation shows that on the majority of leading scientific indicators the UK remains second only in the world to the USA. In the field of medicine we rank second only to the U.S.A, with a 12% share of world citations in Pre-Clinical and Health Related Sciences, and a 10% share in the Biological and Clinical Sciences. We can all be proud of this record.

It is an attractive and impressive feature of our country that medical charities contribute so much to research. In 2005 the figure was over £600m. This compares with the MRC's budget of £455 million in 2004/05. The Government recognises this and the importance of working together with research funding to achieve excellence and sustainability in the Research Base.

We are working closely with Wellcome Trust and other leading medical research charities, through AMRC, to develop a partnership agreement to provide the basis for working together towards full funding research in UK universities. We have set up the charity research support fund as part of QR to contribute towards the full economic costs of charitable funded research at universities in England. It will be worth £135 million in 2006/7 increasing to £180 million by 2007/08

Bridging the gap between basic research and clinical research and better treatments is also a key objective for the Government in the battle against cancer. The National Cancer Research Institute and the cancer networks have brought basic scientists and clinical researchers together and encouraged greater collaboration. This has had a dramatic affect on our ability to carry out clinical trials. It is estimated that 3.75% of patients with cancer were in clinical trials or other well designed studies in 2001. This increased to approximately 11% in the U.K. as a whole by the end of 2003/04, more than exceeding the original target. The U.K. has approximately the same number of patients in clinical trials and other well designed research studies as the U.S.A, but has only approximately one quarter of the population.

Like other funders of medical research you may be concerned about the Chancellor's announcement of a single jointly held health research fund and its effect on basic and clinical research in the UK. So I would like to say a brief word about it.

The aim of the single fund is to maximise the impact of the MRC's funded medical research and the DH's R&D. It will build on the UK's world class medical science base and recent developments such as the development of the UK Clinical Research Collaboration (UKCRC) and the Government's new strategy for N.H.S. R&D in England "Best Research for best Health". It has enormous potential.

Deciding on the best design and institutional arrangements for public funding of health research in the UK is a difficult task. Sir David Cooksey is leading the review which will advise Government on the best way to take this forward. As part of his review he launched a consultation on 4 May and details of the consultation can be found on Treasury's website. I hope that everyone involved in medical research in this country who has views on how it should best be organised will participate fully in this debate.

I would like to end by saying that cancer research is a priority for this Government and we hugely appreciate the outstanding work you as researchers, fundraisers, and Breast Cancer Campaign as an organisation, are doing.  We are enormously impressed by your achievements to date and we want to work closely with you in the future so that jointly we can deliver the enormous benefits that modern medicine promises.