Charity celebrates contribution to the first polio vaccines | Action Medical Research

Charity celebrates contribution to the first polio vaccines

22 February 2012

Children’s charity Action Medical Research was originally founded in 1952, by Duncan Guthrie, in his quest to find a cure for polio, a condition that blighted the lives of many thousands of children including his own daughter Janet (see Janet’s story below).

As reported in the media this week (20 Feb 2012), India has become the latest nation to rid itself of polio with no new cases being reported since January 2011.

Early research funded by the charity led to the development and rapid adoption of the first oral polio vaccine which eradicated new cases of the disease in the UK.

This initial success spurred the charity on to improve the quality of life for thousands of polio survivors left disabled or paralysed by the disease, as well as striving to prevent and treat other disabling conditions.

Since then the charity has developed an extraordinary track record in supporting some of the most significant medical breakthroughs in recent history – breakthroughs that have helped save thousands of children’s lives and changed many more.

Janet’s story
Duncan Guthrie’s daughter Janet was diagnosed with polio in 1949 at just 20 months old. One of the cruelest aspects of her illness and hospitalisation was that for an entire month her parents were not allowed to visit her at all.

Speaking at the time, he said: “The drooping corners of her mouth and the silent tears on her cheek as the bell and the bustling nurses chivvied visitors from the ward will remain with me forever.”

Janet recovered from her illness and escaped the severely disabling effects of the disease but many thousands weren’t so lucky. Thousands were left completely paralysed or with serious disabilities.

“It was painfully clear that very little was known about polio. When my own personal turmoil had died down I realised the greatest contribution to be made would be in helping the medical profession to develop its knowledge about the disease, and in enabling it to improve both prevention and treatment.”

In 2012 Action Medical Research is celebrating investing more than £100 million into vital medical research over the past 60 years, which has led to some key scientific breakthroughs to help reduce the suffering of sick babies and children.

Over the last six decades, Action Medical Research has awarded hundreds of grants and Research Training Fellowships to top scientists at institutions across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The charity originally funded research for both adults and children but changed its remit to become dedicated to funding medical research for babies and children as an underfunded area.

Other key successes achieved through the years include:

  • helping introduce ultrasound scanning in pregnancy
  • discovering the importance of taking folic acid before and during pregnancy to prevent spina bifida
  • developing an infra-red scanner to help minimise risk of brain damage in babies
  • developing a new state-of-the-art fetal heart rate monitor to make pregnancy safer for babies at risk
  • helping to show that cooling the brain can minimise brain damage in some newborn babies deprived of oxygen at birth, reducing the risk of death and severe disability.
  • testing the early rubella vaccine – which became part of the first MMR vaccine.

Professor David Edwards, a pioneer in the development of treatments for newborn babies with brain damage, said: “The breadth and diversity of research supported in the past 60 years clearly demonstrates the importance of the funding this charity has provided. They have also supported the research careers of our most promising young doctors and scientists, many of whom have gone onto great success as a result.”

“Without the support given by Action Medical Research over the past 60 years, the research and the subsequent medical breakthroughs and treatments which save lives, simply wouldn’t have been possible. I am sure they will continue to fund vital research and make a difference to the lives of babies and children for many years to come.”

Although the research we have funded has helped save and change so many children’s lives, there is still so much more to learn about what triggers diseases, how to prevent them and how to develop effective new treatments and find the best ways to care for sick babies and children. Today, Action Medical Research plays a vital role as the leading UK-wide medical research charity dedicated to helping babies and children.

The charity currently awards around £3 million in grants and Research Training Fellowships every year, funding around 70 research projects at any one time.

- ENDS -


For further information please contact:

Toni Slater, Interim Communications Manager
T: 01403 327478

Follow us on Twitter at @actionmedres

Action Medical Research - the leading UK-wide medical research charity dedicated to helping babies and children - is celebrating 60 years of vital research in 2012. We’ve been funding medical breakthroughs since we began in 1952 and have spent more than £100 million on research that has helped save thousands of children’s lives and changed many more. Today, we continue to find and fund the very best medical research to help stop the suffering of babies and children caused by disease and disability. We want to make a difference in:

• tackling premature birth and treating sick and vulnerable babies
• helping children affected by disability, disabling conditions and infections
• targeting rare diseases that together severely affect many forgotten children.

But there is still so much more to do. Make 2012 a special year and help fund more life-changing research for some of the UK’s sickest babies and children.


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