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Science and medicine viewed as Britain’s most valuable export

Over half of Britons say science and medicine is Britain’s most valuable contribution to the world stage

At a time when science has been put to the test, British-led efforts have given the nation inspiration and a sense of pride. While the central role played by the University of Oxford and the NHS in developing COVID-19 vaccines and treatments immediately comes to mind, that’s not all British-led science has contributed to the world in recent years.

A new report out today by Malaria No More UK, Best Of British – How British-Backed Science Can Accelerate The End Of Malaria, shows how British-backed science and research is helping to transform the fight against malaria. This includes the development of malaria vaccines, next generation insecticide nets, genetically modified mosquitoes, and modelling the impact of different climate scenarios on populations at risk of malaria.

Malaria No More UK polling carried out in September by YouGov shows that over three quarters (76%) of Britons felt most proud of British-led science over art and culture, sport and leisure and manufacturing and engineering. Over half (54%) chose science and medicine as Britain’s most valuable contribution to the world stage.

80% believe that it is important for UK security to invest in global disease prevention.

Gareth Jenkins, Director of Advocacy, Malaria No More UK, said: “British-led science is playing such a critical role in the fight against COVID-19. These polling results show the British public want to see the country build on this momentum to end those diseases that have been around for centuries – like malaria – once and for all.”

The pandemic experience has led to strong public backing for continued investment in tackling malaria. As well as pride in science, polling revealed that over 70% of Britons across all social classes and geographical areas feel it is important that the UK continues to invest in preventing malaria. A similar number (80%) believe that it is important for UK security to invest in global disease prevention.

Gareth Jenkins continued: “The results speak for themselves. Britons don’t just care about what happens on their doorstep, they want to see our nation deploy its scientific know-how to help alleviate the burden of deadly diseases around the globe.

“Urgent action must be taken to ensure all is not lost – if the world continues to only use current tools available at current investment levels, global targets to reduce malaria by 90% won’t be met by the end of the decade, risking an extra two million lives by the end of the decade.

“Not only does malaria still kill a child every two minutes, but it poses a grave risk to global health security because underfunded and overwhelmed front line health services and weak disease surveillance systems leave ‘blind spots’ which potentially conceal new infectious diseases, exposing the entire global community to the significant danger of future pandemics. “Now is not the time for Britain to reduce its contribution to the fight, and that includes backing our brilliant scientists, and the Global Fund programmes that help get the prevention tools and medicines to those who need them.”

As the UK Government reviews state spending this Autumn and looks towards next year’s replenishment of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Malaria No More UK calls for a renewed ambitious financial commitment to ending malaria, including through research, science and innovation.

Progress on reducing malaria has always been dependent on the innovation behind new products and interventions, many of which have been led by British-backed institutions and scientists over the last hundred years.

World leading scientists tell us ending malaria is possible, but numerous emerging challenges are now threatening the landmark global accomplishments achieved to date. Malaria is now at real risk of global resurgence, not only due to the knock-on impact of COVID-19, but because of several simultaneous new biological and environmental threats from the natural world, including insecticide and drug resistance and the increasingly rapid loss of natural habitats key to the development of many new medicines.

Professor Azra Ghani, Infectious Disease Epidemiologist, Imperial College London, said: “Britain has a proud heritage in helping to tackle one of the world’s oldest diseases through its scientific contributions. Now more than ever we need to maintain our investment in this global fight to create a safer world for us all, and work with partners so that the right solutions reach those who need them the most.”

As we look towards the upcoming Spending Review this Autumn and replenishment of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria next year, Malaria No More UK is calling on the UK Government to build on the momentum generated by UK science’s world-leading role in combatting COVID-19 by backing malaria research and innovation to allow countries to sustain critical malaria interventions in the face of COVID-19 and ensure key tools get to those that need them.

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