Children's charity celebrates 60 years' top med research investment across South West | Action Medical Research

Children's charity celebrates 60 years' top med research investment across South West

5 January 2012

Children’s charity 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.

Research funded over the years has included pioneering work carried out across the South West of England including Bristol. Important research into devastating conditions is still being funded in the region today – see below for a full list of current projects.

The charity 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. 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.

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.

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.

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 the 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 risk of death and severe disability.
• supporting the lead researcher whose team helped establish a vaccine for meningitis
• testing the early rubella vaccine – which was part of the first MMR vaccine

Professor David Edwards, a pioneer in the development of treatments for newborn babies with brain damage, said: “The work supported by Action Medical Research at hospitals and universities over the decades has had a great impact on the lives of babies and children.

“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. Currently, the charity is funding the following projects in the South West area:

Bowel problems in newborn babies
University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, University of the West of England and the University of Birmingham

Neurofibromatosis Type Two
Peninsula Medical School, Plymouth

Brain tumour removal – minimising brain damage
University of Bristol and Frenchay Hospital, Bristol

Premature labour – University of Bristol

Birth asphyxia – preventing brain damage
St Michael’s Hospital and University of Bristol

Case study:
Little Jack Scarbrough proudly names the colours on the pages while his mum reads a book to him, just like any other toddler learning his way in the world. But to mum Sally it’s a miracle as Jack was born blind due to an incredibly rare genetic condition.

Jack, now aged two, appears to be able to see more colours and shapes than was previously thought but this cruel condition leaves Jack’s eyes extremely fragile and his parents live in constant fear he will damage them and lose the little sight he has, permanently.

Jack, from Cirencester, was born with primary aphakia, a genetic condition which was the result of both Sally and husband Al, carrying very rare changes in the same gene. Their older son, Will, aged seven, has perfect sight. Jack was one of just eight children diagnosed with the condition in the country, when he was born in 2008.

The family found out what caused Jack’s blindness thanks to Dr Lily Islam - a researcher who is being funded by a Research Training Fellowship awarded by children’s charity Action Medical Research.

While working with blind and partially sighted babies at Great Ormond Street Hospital, Dr Islam became determined to find better ways to tackle childhood blindness. It’s often unclear exactly what causes children’s eyesight problems, making it difficult to identify the best treatment.

Dr Islam is searching for genetic changes that can cause blindness. Her work will give parents invaluable information on why their child is blind and how the condition may be inherited in their family. It may also lead to better treatments for children like Jack.


For further information please contact: Toni Slater, Interim Communications Manager, T: 01403 327478
E:, W:

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.

Help us spread the word