[Ip-health] UK - Cures for killer diseases at risk from cuts

Riaz K Tayob riaz.tayob at gmail.com
Sun Dec 4 01:04:01 PST 2011


  Cures for killer diseases at risk from cuts

As budgets are slashed, academics are warning that crucial breakthroughs 
will be jeopardised

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    Daniel Boffey <http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/daniel-boffey>,
    policy editor
  * guardian.co.uk <http://www.guardian.co.uk>, Saturday 3 December 2011
    23.09 GMT
  * Article history
    <http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2011/dec/03/cures-killer-diseases-cuts#history-link-box>


Radcliffe Camera and All Souls College in Oxford
The Bodleian Library at Oxford, one of the universities facing 'ruinous' 
cuts to research grants. Latest figures show its budget could fall by 
more than £50m over three years. Photograph: Pawel Libera/Corbis

Scientific breakthroughs with the potential to cure Parkinson's disease, 
provide vaccines for global killers such as HIV/Aids and malaria, and 
deliver solutions to curtail the environmental costs of building homes 
could be delayed by "ruinous" cuts to the development of research 
<http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/research> facilities at the 
country's leading universities, according to academics.

They warn that the development of world-beating laboratories, 
manufacturing workshops and even the country's leading position in the 
field of computer technology are at risk from the government's cuts to 
spending on building projects and facilities maintenance at the 
universities of Oxford, Cambridge, and Manchester, and Imperial College 
and University College in London.

Figures released by the Department of Business Innovation and Skills 
indicate that funding has already been cut by around 65% across those 
institutions this year and that this reduced sum is indicative of the 
amount of money that will be provided over the next two years to the 
Research Capital Investment Fund, the pot of money used to finance the 
infrastructure of the country's premier research institutions.

The universities believe that the reduced funding will have wide-ranging 
repercussions. Professor David Phillips, the president of the Royal 
Society of Chemistry and emeritus professor at Imperial College, said he 
feared it would take decades for the country's research base to recover 
if the government ploughed on with its plans until 2015.

The figures, he said, were particularly galling at a time when the 
country needed to be innovative and to create employment. He said: 
"Leading-edge research is being compromised by ruinous cuts to 
universities' capital budgets. The last time we had cuts of this size 
was in the 1980s -- and it took us decades to recover. Why are we not 
learning the lessons of the past?"

Projects that will "inevitably" be put at risk, according to the 
University of Cambridge, are in the fields of neuroscience 
<http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/neuroscience>, high-performance 
computing and energy-efficient construction.

The university is currently building a £200m laboratory of molecular 
biology to replace the current facility, which was opened in 1963. It is 
widely regarded as the birthplace of modern molecular biology and a 
leading facility in the search for the causes of -- and a cure for -- 
Parkinson's disease.

Professor Steve Young, a senior pro-vice-chancellor at Cambridge, said: 
"Critical infrastructure funding from government was cut by more than 
70% in the current year. Any further cuts would be extremely damaging to 
our ability to respond flexibly to future needs, and we very much hope 
that former levels of funding will be restored.

"The university council have had to divert operational funds to our 
capital programme in order to keep essential building projects on track, 
but this is not sustainable in the long term."

After less than a year under the new funding arrangements, the 
University of Oxford said that it had already had to "slow down" 
progress in replacing and updating facilities in chemistry, physiology 
and physics. The university is hoping to provide 12,000 square metres of 
additional space to encourage medical breakthroughs in biochemistry.

Professor William James, a pro-vice-chancellor for planning and 
resources at Oxford, said that the university, which recently used the 
government fund to create a new depository for the world-famous Bodleian 
libraries and build an earth sciences facility to pursue green 
technologies, had now been forced to seek funds from private sources. He 
said: "The reduction has been dramatic, and requires us to generate 
greater funds from other sources just to maintain our current estate, 
let alone build new facilities. Inevitably this will slow progress in 
creating some of the facilities we need to sustain our world-leading 
research."

According to the figures provided by the universities minister, David 
Willetts, Cambridge received £100m in the past three years, but 
forecasts from the government's Higher Education 
<http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/higher-education> Funding Council 
indicate it will only have £45m for the next three years. Oxford's sum 
is set to be reduced from £98m to £47m. Imperial College will see its 
funding cut from £91m to £41m, while its London neighbour, University 
College, will be hit by a cut from £94m to £40m. Manchester will see its 
financing plummet from £72m to £33m, according to figures released to 
Gareth Thomas MP, the shadow minister for civil society.

A BIS spokesperson said: "We are determined to maintain and strengthen 
our world-class research base. That's why we have protected the £4.6bn 
ring-fenced science and research budget. It's why we've found an 
additional £500m this year for science capital, including £200m in last 
week's autumn statement. Our higher education reforms could see an 
increase of 10% in the cash received by universities for teaching to 
2014/15."




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