Over the course of the past year, we have witnessed one of the most challenging periods in global history. We have seen struggle, we have seen tragedy, but we have also seen incredible acts of generosity. From the world’s wealthiest people pouring resources into vaccine development to a 99-year-old man walking lengths of his garden to raise money for Britain’s NHS, we have seen the impact that charity can have on helping the less fortunate and boosting the spirits of people all over the globe.
Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that many of the biggest scientific developments in the UK are being pushed forward by charities. And this is not a recent development. The world’s attention may be on the pandemic right now, but a glance at some of nation’s biggest charities shows that many of the most important advances in science and technology across a wide range of sectors have been pushed forward by charitable organisations. Let’s take a look at some of the most important.
Alzheimer’s Research UK
Founded in 1992, this trailblazing charity was set up in response to the heart-breaking lack of investment into research into dementia and Alzheimer’s. According to recent numbers, there are more than 920,000 people who are living with dementia in the UK, and it’s a number which is only going to increase. It beggars belief that it took a small team, initially spearheaded by just four people (Barbara Langlois, Dr Sarah-Jane Richards, Dr Martin Weale and Joe Pollock) to lead the charge on setting up a charity that would help to research causes, prevention, treatment and a cure.
Today, they continue to lobby the British government for support and funds to help tackle this devastating disease, and they have recently partnered with Exscientia to use AI technology to find new treatments.
The British Heart Foundation
Heart disease and other illnesses associated with it are a huge issue in the UK, accounting for roughly a quarter of all deaths. Approximately 7.6 million in the UK are living with heart and circulatory diseases, with more than 100,000 people being admitted to hospital following heart attacks. Those numbers are absolutely staggering, but there are charities out there which are making sure that research into the causes of heart disease and potential treatments keeps pushing forward.
The British Heart Foundation has been the cornerstone of research into heart disease since it was founded by a team of medical professionals back in 1961 and draws its funds from a combination of legacies and medical research grants, as well as public-driven efforts such as fundraising and charitable donations. They have recently funded research at the University of Newcastle into the genes involved in congenital heart defects.
The Tej Kohli Cornea Institute
Of course, the work done by UK-based charities is not limited to the UK. We are fantastically privileged in this country when it comes to access to healthcare, and it’s important to remember that circumstances faced by people suffering from the same ailment are radically different depending on where they live. 90% of people who suffer from blindness and severe visual impairment live in the poorest countries in the world, where the support available simply isn’t on the same level.
Founded in 2015 by technologist Tej Kohli, The Tej Kohli Cornea Institute believes that no one should have to live in the darkness of blindness and severe visual impairment, and they have set a mission to end corneal blindness by 2035. Between 2015 and 2019, the institute completed 43,255 free surgical procedures to cure and alleviate blindness in some of the world’s poorest regions, using UK-based research to make lives easier for the people who need it the most.
The Wellcome Trust
While the charities that we have mentioned so far have all been focused on one ailment or disease in particular, the Wellcome Trust is a UK-based charity that is fuelling research across a broad range of different health issues. The trust was founded in 1936 following the death of pharmaceutical entrepreneur Henry Wellcome, created using the funds he had accumulated throughout his life. The mission he left behind in his will was to continue to fund medical and scientific research for the betterment of mankind, and that’s exactly what the Wellcome Trust has continued to do throughout the decades.
Throughout the years, the trust has also pivoted towards giving individual grants, and even bigger initiatives like the Wellcome Sanger Institute which was involved in sequencing the Human Genome Project. Recently, they established Wellcome Leap, which brings together 21 of the world’s leading universities and research institutions to face infectious diseases and cancer. It covers six continents, involves 150,000 researchers, and will be able to cut through the bureaucratic red tape that can continue to impede important research and collaboration.