By Irina Jahin, Research and Membership Intern at AMRC and PhD student

As a second year PhD student, my exposure to the world of medical research has been very one-sided until now. As part of my PhD programme, I chose to do a three-month internship with AMRC, during which I assisted with their annual data collection, analysing the research expenditure and grants portfolio data of over 140 medical research charities.

It’s been a remarkable time to join the AMRC team and as my internship draws to a close, I felt compelled to write about the biggest takeaway from this experience, which is that medical research charities are an essential and integral part of the research ecosystem.

When the pandemic first hit and my fellow early career research students and I were told to work from home, we were panic stricken: How will I finish my experiments? Three months in lockdown not gathering any data, I’m wasting time! Will I get a funded extension for my PhD? Am I still being funded? It’s only now, that I realise my questions, although valid, should have been the least of my concerns considering the gravity of the current climate.

COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on medical research charities forcing them to cut £270 million in research funding and putting many researchers and their research at risk. 61% of charities have had to cut or cancel support for early career researchers and skilled research roles.

As of June 2020, AMRC has been campaigning for the Government to step in and provide financial support as part of the #ResearchAtRisk campaign.

AMRC member charities range from one volunteer to a huge corporation employing hundreds of people. But no matter how big or small, the current crisis has impacted them ALL: less funding = fewer research staff and resources = cancelled or delayed research projects = fewer discoveries and findings = delayed progress for treatments and disease prevention = fewer lives improved and saved.

At the beginning of the pandemic, I was worried about my PhD funding. Now I know I’m one of the lucky few whose funding has not been cut. I can continue my PhD looking into the invasion of Breast Cancer and hopefully make an impact in the field.

After a year of campaigning, AMRC is still waiting to hear from Government about any funding for research charities. The loss of funding, research cuts and unreliability will make it difficult for the UK to attract future early career researchers, compromising the future of the UK’s foothold in global research.

Nevertheless, I remain hopeful that in the coming years, many of my peers will be able to continue working towards medical breakthroughs for charities and the communities they support.