Blog post: Funding medical research is a bit like a day at the races

30 March 2017

Imagine a day out at Aintree, Newmarket or Ascot; you’re immediately faced with a huge number of horses and jockeys in different races which you could potentially stake your £5 on, in the hope of generating bigger returns. You have to choose carefully based on the latest odds, listening to those in the know for their tips to help you make an informed decision and to ensure that your money is well-spent.

In lots of ways, choosing which researchers and research projects to fund on an annual basis is similar, and every year Asthma UK’s Research Team engage in a process to help us decide which proposals end up being ‘backed’ with the funds raised so generously by all of our supporters. As we only have a limited amount of money to spend each year, we need to be sure that we’re supporting the research which has the potential to make the most impact for people with asthma, both now and in the future. Right now, Asthma UK is listening to the pundits and those in the know (otherwise known as conducting ‘Peer Review’) in order to find and fund our new outstanding Asthma UK Senior Fellows. We don’t just speak to scientific pundits either – people with asthma from all over the UK are also helping us decide which researchers to back. This process is known as ‘lay review’, and is undertaken by Asthma UK’s Research and Policy volunteers. Lay reviewers help Asthma UK ensure that we’re supporting research which is deemed important to people with asthma.

In 2016 we launched our new 2016-2021 Research Strategy, which incorporates and adopts 15 priority asthma research areas identified by the European Asthma Research and Innovation Partnership. The priority areas were identified not only by expert scientists and researchers, but also with the help of over 1,600 people with asthma. By asking researchers to address at least 1 of these priorities when applying for funding, we know that the research we fund will be of importance to people with asthma whilst also uncovering new knowledge about the condition which we need to develop treatments and solutions in the future.

The first year of our funding Strategy will see us offer two types of Senior Fellowship Awards. Just as younger jockeys are trained in the hope that they go on to win races, so do we hope that Fellowships support asthma researchers who want to transition to independence, becoming leading thinkers in their field. If we want to see leading asthma scientists in the future, we need to invest in younger researchers earlier in their career in the hope of generating many years of new scientific knowledge about asthma – something which would be considered as an excellent pay out for people with asthma in the UK.

To ensure that we have a balance between laboratory-based and clinical research, Asthma UK will offer both a Non-Clinical Fellowship and a Clinical Fellowship in 2017:

  • The Senior Non-Clinical Fellowship Awards aim to support lab-based and academic researchers so that they can investigate their ideas independently. They will award £225,000 and last for up to 5 years.
  • The Senior Clinical Fellowship Awards aim to support researchers at Lecturer/Senior Lecturer level who want to transition to independence, or clinical academics who are prevented from dedicating enough time to research due to other commitments. They will award £250,000 for up and will also last up to 5 years.

We believe that the best way to support people with asthma is through supporting world-class research. By supporting the most promising asthma researchers in the UK to become winners, we hope to generate the ultimate return for patients: new treatments and a cure for asthma.

For more information about Asthma UK’s 2017 Senior Fellowship Awards or about research funding and our new Research Strategy, please contact the Asthma UK Research Team:

E: research@asthma.org.uk 

T: 0207 786 4946