NERC launches manifesto at Westminster

National Eye Research Centre launches its call for action to fund eye research at a Westminster reception

House of Parliament at night
A host of ophthalmic surgeons and eye health stakeholders, as well as charity and industry representatives gathered at Westminster earlier this month (4 February) for the launch of a new manifesto from the National Eye Research Centre (NERC).

The charity organisation, one of the few in the UK funding eye research, met to promote advocacy of eye health and to increase funding into vital eye research.

The Insights to a Healthy Future manifesto is a call to action urging the government to review several key points to avoid the ‘imminent crisis facing underfunding in eye research.’ These include increasing funding for basic science research and development programmes, partnerships between biotechs and small-to-medium enterprises, including early phase clinical trials for proof of concept.

Launched at a Westminster reception by Stephen Williams, Liberal Democrats MP for Bristol West, the manifesto also calls for a greater number of biobanks for eye tissue as well as a government-led research programme. Speaking of the prevalence of diabetes and related eye problems in his own constituency, Mr Stephens said: “About half of all people with diabetes will have some degree of retinopathy and about 10% of these will be sight threatening... it’s an issue that needs to be addressed urgently, right across the population.”

The manifesto highlights that 40 people lose their sight each day in the UK, with an estimated two million people living with some degree of sight loss – a figure set to double by 2050.

The NERC has worked with clinicians in Manchester and Bristol to make corneas available through eye banks, and the charity’s vice president, Professor David Easty, was has been one of those working to advance the success rate of corneal transplants for keratoconus in the UK, as a patient testimonial described.

The charity’s patron, Prince Michael of Kent, said it was concerning that such a hard working charity had such “a paucity of funds.” Taking to the lectern, he told attendees that the “eye health picture gives rise to huge concern,” citing projections around the numbers for people with serious sight loss doubling within 40 years.

“Having been patron of the NERC for more than 20 years, I have seen time and again how the research projects that we fund can make a real difference to the lives of people,” said Prince Michael. “We could do so much more and transform so many more lives if we had more money,” he added.

For more information and the full manifesto, visit the National Eye Research Centre website.