Anthony Nolan: Impact Philanthropy saving lives through research

Anthony Nolan: Impact Philanthropy saving lives through research

Expert opinion

Most people are aware that charities across the UK work hard to help people in need, support education and culture, preserve the environment, and a wide range of other activities to help make the world a better place.

Likewise, many people are aware that an amazing range of medical research and improvements for patients is undertaken by universities, hospitals, and clinicians, with many ideas and discoveries becoming widely available through the creation of companies supported by venture capital.

In fact, much of that research is made possible by charities. A quarter of new treatments, products, and clinical trials are funded or partly funded by medical charities ( One major recent development, the opening of the Francis Crick Institute for biomedical research, was made possible through Cancer Research UK’s fundraising as a key founding partner. The role of charities across medical research is shown in this short video from the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC):

But there is also an alternative route to saving lives in this way, through specialist charities such as Anthony Nolan identifying opportunities beyond their core charitable work, building on their expertise, where investment can offer a genuine financial return with both direct and indirect benefits to patients and medical research as a whole.


What are the challenges for medical charities, and the opportunities for impact investors?

Medical charities are often seen as expert partners in the search for improved treatment and cures. Over ten years, members of the Association of Medical Research Charities invested £15 Billion in research, and currently fund over 17,000 scientists. 88% of this research takes place in universities, showing the strong relationship between the charity and academic sectors ( Medical charities in the UK are also genuine champions of patients, ensuring that their voices are heard by researchers, clinicians, politicians, and others.

The fundraising to make this possible, whilst often challenging, does have the advantage of being clearly related to the primary purpose of the charity: seeking cures and new treatments for specific conditions.

But the expertise held by many charities could be applied more widely, whether across different conditions as we learn more about how treatments can be more widely effective, or by working with commercial partners through the provision of services and products.

This is where an opportunity for impact investors can be found, helping to pump prime specialist business activities undertaken by a charity in the same way you might consider a commercial medical start up: making a genuine contribution to the sustainability of effective charities; directly helping that charity to save more lives; and having a wider positive impact by accelerating the delivery of new therapies.


How is Anthony Nolan developing these opportunities?

Medical charities by their nature are experts in their areas and immensely collaborative. This means they are acutely aware of bottlenecks in the development of new therapies, whether they are because of a lack of capacity, expertise, funding, or political will.

Anthony Nolan’s expertise lies in the provision of, and research into, stem cells, and the importance of genetic matching. Over the past 50 years, growing knowledge of the possibilities of cell and gene therapy means that this expertise is more and more widely important. For example future treatments would be truly personal to each patient; there could be hope for those suffering from currently untreatable conditions; there could be reduced need for organ transplants as new therapies support the body to repair damage. All of these areas are being developed right now. We are clear that there are capacity issues in the UK when it comes to the collection of cells from donors, whether for research or treatment. We are also clear that there is a growing demand for cells and cell products that are ethically collected and of very high quality. This combination of factors is where a medical charity, rather than a purely commercial company, can offer something unique in the market, and where impact investors can help grow a different approach to medical spin-offs and start-ups.


Equity of access to new treatments

The development of these innovative cell therapies is currently at a crossroads when it comes to equity of access. Commercial pharmaceutical companies are investing heavily, and aiming to recoup that investment as well as make a healthy profit. Restrictions in capacity and availability of materials are already slowing development in the UK and Europe. Lower profit opportunities lead pharmaceutical companies to concentrate on the US market in particular. We believe there is an opportunity, and a moral imperative, to lower the cost of products and services, leading to treatments being as widely available as possible. We also believe that this approach can still provide a healthy return to investors looking to make a genuine impact.

About Anthony Nolan 

To find out more about Anthony Nolan, please go to Our organisation | Anthony Nolan

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