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Cancer Research UK announces £44m research cut

Image: Willy Barton, Shutterstock

‘Devastating’ decision comes as charity expects fundraising income to fall by 20-25 per cent

Cancer Research UK has announced a “devastating” £44 million cut to its research portfolio as the charity grapples with the financial impact of the Covid-19 crisis.

In an open letter addressed to the researchers it supports dated 6 April, the charity’s executive director Iain Foulkes, chief scientist Karen Vousden and chief clinician Charles Swanton said the pandemic was having an “unprecedented financial effect” on the funder.

“Our income is not backed by the government or an endowment; we are a fundraising charity and we rely on our supporters’ donations,” they said.

“Our shops have closed, our mass fundraising events have stopped, legacies have reduced. We expect our fundraising income to fall by at least 20-25 per cent in the next financial year as a direct result of this pandemic—a reduction of around £120m.”

As a result, the charity said it had taken the “difficult decision” to cut funding for existing grants and institutes by up to 10 per cent and its national network of centres by around 20 per cent, resulting in a £44 million cut to its research portfolio.

The letter added that the charity had also taken the decision to postpone any new funding commitments, meaning no new research projects will be funded “for at least the first half of the year”.

The charity says it funds nearly 50 per cent of the cancer research in the UK.

“Making funding cuts to our research—the core purpose of the charity in its mission to beat cancer—is the most difficult decision we’ve had to make,” the letter said. “In doing this, we’ve tried to be as flexible as possible. We want to preserve the work and resources that will be most difficult to recover once lost and we want to avoid losing a generation of cancer researchers.”

In order to protect funding for studentships, the charity said it was offering current grant holders increased flexibility to manage their grants, as well as giving its centres and institutes flexibility to decide how to use their reduced pool of money.

In addition, the charity’s board has taken a 20 per cent pay cut, with a consultation under way with staff to apply a similar reduction to their salaries.

“We know these funding cuts will be devastating to the work of our scientists and clinicians, and that the scope and focus of these changes will raise many questions,” the letter said, adding that the charity would contact everyone affected by the cuts.