Medical expert warns North loses out to the South in research funding

Prof Andrew Cant, director of the Bubble Unit at Newcastle's Great North children's Hospital, has raised concerns that the region is often overlooked when it comes to grants for important medical research programmes

Bubble Unit director Professor Andrew Cant
Bubble Unit director Professor Andrew Cant

A world-leading paediatric consultant has warned that the North East is losing out to the south in funding for pioneering medical research.

Prof Andrew Cant, director of the Bubble Unit at Newcastle’s Great North children’s Hospital, has raised concerns that the region is often overlooked when it comes to grants for important medical research programmes.

Prof Cant said money is more likely to go to the “Golden Triangle” of universities in Oxford, Cambridge and London, while researchers in the North are left to rely on donations from charities such as the Bubble Foundation. He said: “One gets the impression that more research funding tends to go to the South and we have to work hard to get it, yet what we offer is every bit as good.

“We have great universities in the North, however, often it appears that bigger funding goes to universities in the South.

“With the resources we get from the Bubble Foundation it enables us to fund initial research and that makes it more likely that we will attract further grants as we can demonstrate what work is being done.”

The Bubble Foundation funds research into immune deficiency problems and is currently financing programmes, in collaboration with Newcastle University, up to the value of £100,000 per year. Over the last 20 years it has given more than £1m to research schemes and has helped buy medical equipment, such as the Extracorporeal Photopheresis machine to treat patients suffering from serious complications of bone marrow transplantation.

Yet donations to the Bubble Foundation have dwindled significantly and the charity is now at serious risk of closure.

If this were to happen it would be to the detriment to the region as it would mean that groundbreaking research would stop and the area could lose leading experts in the field.

Prof Cant said: “Last year, the Bubble Foundation funded a key researcher for one year and good results meant that the Medical Research Council funded a bigger programme.

“If we had not had initial funding from the Foundation then this would not have happened.

“Research undertaken 10 years ago, even five years ago, is what has helped increase our success rates and donating to research really is important.”

In the early years of the unit, survival rates of youngsters who had received a bone marrow transplant was 50%.

But that has now risen to 90% and those treated successfully go on to lead a normal life.

The Journal has launched a campaign to raise vital funds for the Bubble Foundation and we are urging as many people as possible to give a donation.

Prof Cant added: “Everyone I have met in the North East are proud to be part of the region and are proud of things that make the North East special.

“People should be proud of the special unit at the Great North Children’s Hospital as it is a world-leader in its field.”


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