Charity acts on research aid

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The Independent Online
The Cancer Research Campaign is to draw up a code of practice for its allocation of research grants to scientists, which it hopes will squeeze out tobacco companies trying to co-fund their work.

The move follows its angry reaction in March to the endowment by British American Tobacco (BAT) of pounds 1.5 million to Cambridge University, for a Chair of International Relations. The CRC had considered withdrawing future research funding - worth pounds 3 million a year - from research there, and its director Gordon McVie said at the time that he was "mightily displeased" with the university's acceptance of the money.

But yesterday the CRC announced that its council had decided to stop short of such a dramatic move. The code of practice could be ready by the end of the year.

The CRC is also commissioning urgent research into public attitudes to tobacco, the tobacco industry and its influence on the health industry. "Maybe people out there think that we should take tobacco money," said Professor McVie yesterday. "Though I don't think so - we have had immense support from the public on this." The "tobacco" code of practice for researchers will resemble those already in place covering animal experiments and intellectual property rights which are a condition of funding for researchers applying to the CRC at present.

Professor McVie regrets that none had been drawn up before. "We have gone to great lengths to get it right with animal experimentation, and with intellectual property who owns what rights to the results of research. But in the past we have overlooked this issue of other sponsors of research, including tobacco companies. I don't think we should co-fund any work with them."

The Imperial Cancer Research Fund (ICRF) backed the move, saying it was understandable that any medical research charity should be concerned that its grants were not "tainted" by the tobacco industry. "We sympathise with hard-pressed universities who are desperate for funds, and understand the temptation to turn to any company that holds out a helping hand," said Paul Nurse, the ICRF director-general. "But we urge any institution to resist the siren voices of the tobacco industry."

The CRC is also trying to find out how many other scientists around the country are presently being co-funded in cancer research or other work by tobacco companies such as BAT or Imperial Tobacco. "Though I'm sure that the researchers will be reluctant to come forward," commented Professor McVie.