Originally published at bhf.org.uk, written by Christie Norris.
Coronavirus (Covid-19) is an unprecedented pandemic that has shaken the world and now presents us with one of the most significant challenges in history.
For almost six decades, the BHF has funded the highest quality research to improve and save the lives of people with heart and circulatory diseases. Since being founded in 1961, we have never faced a challenge like this — a virus that has significantly impacted our researchers, our work, our people and our mission.
As the situation evolves, our Medical Director Professor Sir Nilesh Samani and his team are working to support our research community in joining the fight against Covid-19, and I welcome the opportunity to share more about this with you.
Empowering our researchers
An important aim of Covid-19 research is understanding the direct and indirect impacts of the virus on people with heart and circulatory diseases. The BHF supports an army of world-class researchers, many of whom are contributing their expertise in coordination with the NIHR initiative for Covid-19 research, which we fully welcome and endorse.
We are also empowering our research community to get involved in the following ways:
*At their discretion, we encourage our clinical researchers, including fellows and chairholders, to devote their time (and the time of their BHF-funded support staff) to Covid-19 research, until they are able to return to their normal research activity.
*We have altered our guidance so that Institutions that hold BHF Research Excellence Awards and Accelerator Awards can direct any currently uncommitted funds from their grants to Covid-19 research.
We are also in advanced discussions with leadership teams of existing BHF initiatives, such as the BHF Data Science Centre and the BHF-NIHR Cardiovascular Partnership, with a view to developing innovative ways to utilise our research infrastructure in the battle against Covid-19.
Supporting research in progress
Although the full implications of the virus will take some time to become clear, we recognise that Covid-19 will have a substantial impact on the research we currently fund and remain committed to supporting our researchers to continue with their projects where possible.
If research Institutions shut down for a period of time, our current position is that we will continue to pay the salaries of staff funded on grants. Likewise, if clinical studies pause for a period of time — for example due to redeployment of staff or interruption of patient recruitment — our current position is that we will continue to pay salaries, including those supported in clinical trial units.
We are also prepared to support requests for ‘no cost extensions’ to grants, to accommodate any delays that may be caused by the suspension of research.
Applying for funding
We know that heart and circulatory disease remains as urgent an issue as ever, and we need to continue the life saving research funded by our supporters. At this time, we are focused on protecting our support for patients and providing stability for our world-class cardiovascular researchers.
As it stands, our BHF grant schemes remain open for applications and — with the sustained support of our reviewers and committee members — we will hold upcoming committee meetings online, although the timing of awards may change as the situation evolves.
We also recognise that Covid-19 may present researchers with challenges when it comes to obtaining the documents needed to submit applications, which is why in some cases we’re prepared to consider applications without such paperwork (subject to conditions).
To find out more about the steps we’ve taken, read our full research statement on Covid-19.
There is no denying the reality of this pandemic and its impact on families across the UK.
It also significantly impacting the BHF and the research that we fund. We’ve made difficult but important decisions to protect our income, such as shutting our 750 shops and stores across the UK and furloughing a significant number of our BHF colleagues under the Government’s Job Retention Scheme. Even with these temporary measures, we estimate the current situation costs the BHF around £10 million a month.
Undoubtedly, and like many organisations, we will face tough decisions to protect the charity’s future as the major funder of research into heart and circulatory diseases. In the future, we will rely even more on our generous supporters, volunteers and partners to power our life saving work to end heartbreak forever.
Dedicated to our mission
As a medical research charity, we have been inspired by the way the global scientific community has come together to tackle the coronavirus. Having been a scientist I appreciate the commitment and dedication of our BHF research community and applaud every researcher who is part of the extraordinary efforts to beat this pandemic.
At the BHF, we will continue to do what we can to empower our scientists to join the fight against Covid-19 and work hard to protect our vital research for the future.
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If you want to read more, why not try:
- Bringing cardiac rehab to your own home
- Living with an artificial heart: James's story
- The oily fish with blood pressure powers
Originally published at https://www.bhf.org.uk.
Standing with our BHF research community was originally published in British Heart Foundation on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.