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Funding science for future generations

Last updated

18/01/23

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By choosing to leave a gift in their Will, our supporters are ensuring that high-quality, life-changing medical research continues to provide the knowledge that future generations will depend on.

In 2018 Dr Frances Rawle pledged a gift in her Will to the Foundation. Here, she explains why.

By the time my donation reaches the Foundation, it’s impossible to know the biggest health challenges we’ll be facing. But I know it will be focused on areas with the greatest need, when the time comes.
Dr Frances Rawle

Until retiring in April 2021, Dr Frances Rawle had worked in various roles at the Medical Research Council (MRC) for almost 30 years.

Most recently Frances was Director of Policy, Ethics and Governance, responsible for governance and accountability for the MRC within UK Research and Innovation. Among other things, this meant tackling important subjects such as good research practice, research integrity, data sharing and transparency, open access publishing, research using personal data and research involving animals.

Frances joined the MRC as a programme manager for AIDS research in 1991, following a PhD in immunology and postdoctoral research in the UK and the US. After that, Frances held a number of MRC positions, including programme manager for public health, head of the Research Careers group and leading the Molecular and Cellular Medicine group.

“The first time I ever worked with the MRC was during my undergraduate degree as a biochemistry student, when I spent the summer holidays doing lab-work in the MRC’s former Common Cold Unit based in Wiltshire,” says Frances.

“Thousands of volunteers came for 10-day visits to be willingly infected with a cold virus. Indeed, many came back year after year in their holidays – all to help find a cure for the common cold. Looking back, it feels especially pertinent now as the unit’s research included work on coronaviruses. And as with COVID-19, scientific progress depended on lots of volunteers coming forward to participate in research and trial new therapies.

“My experience working in the unit certainly influenced my decision to pursue a PhD in immunology, and that was the foundation of my subsequent career.”

Frances moved into the MRC’s corporate affairs department around the same time the Foundation was being set up as an independent charity.

Leaving a legacy

“Once my children had grown up and left home, I started looking at the charities I wanted to support in my Will,” says Frances.

“I knew I wanted to include a medical research charity, given that I’d worked in this field for my whole career, and obviously the Foundation was close to my heart. I’ve always been taken by the Foundation’s ability to focus purely on funding research, and especially in areas where there isn’t enough support. Rather than focusing on a specific disease or condition, the Foundation has been able to invest in research where it is needed most – whether that be eating disorders and self-harm, antimicrobial resistance, viral and autoimmune hepatitis or even COVID-19.”

Another deciding factor for Frances was that although we can’t predict the next global threat to human health, we can prepare for it by funding the scientists of the future. “By the time my donation reaches the Foundation, it’s impossible to know the biggest health challenges we’ll be facing. But I know it will be focused on areas with the greatest need, when the time comes.”

Throughout her career at the MRC, Frances saw first-hand how important it is to support researchers early in their careers. “Funding at this time can determine the area of research they end up in, and without it, they can be forced to leave science altogether. The Foundation awards funding during this critical period, helping them become leaders in their field, so they can push forward with their research for many years to come. I hope my contribution will make a difference for an emerging research leader, someone early in their career who needs funding on the path to longer-term projects.”

“To others who might be considering a gift in their Will to the Foundation, I would say think about what’s important to you and what you want your legacy to be after you’ve gone,” says Frances. “If science or medical research has been one of those things, then the Foundation is an excellent home for your donation.”

Frances is walking the Thames Bridges Trek on 11 September, raising money for research into adolescent eating disorders and self-harm. Find out more about joining our team of walkers.

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