Your Editorial “Brown's budget briefing” (Nature 440, 581; 2006) implies that the UK Medical Research Council (MRC) is responsible only for basic biomedical research. In fact, MRC scientists invented randomized clinical trial methodology in the 1940s, and the MRC remains the largest UK public funder of trials. It has supported a multitude of trials including the Heart Protection Study (demonstrating the value of statins) and the CRASH trial (showing that the treatment of head-injury victims with corticosteroids is actually dangerous), both of which were highlighted in the budget statement.
The MRC is internationally recognized for supporting research that has underpinned the twentieth-century revolution in basic biomedicine. But its contribution to clinical research has been equally significant. Not just its trials and epidemiology (including discovery of the link between smoking and cancer), but ground-breaking work in such areas as vitamins, viruses, penicillin, vaccines, magnetic resonance imaging and antibody drugs.
Three years ago, the MRC made a strategic commitment to increase its investment in translational, clinical and public-health research. The planned creation of a new, single fund for health research is an opportunity to strengthen further the pipeline from discovery to better treatment and prevention. But, as you point out, maintaining the independence of scientific judgement that has delivered so well in the past will be vital.