HC Deb 20 April 2004 vol 420 cc416-7W
Mr. Watson

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what measures his Department is taking to fund research into combating beta thalassaemia major. [165250]

Miss Melanie Johnson

Details of research projects relating to beta thalassaemia major funded by, or of interest to, the National Health Service are available on the National Research Register (NRR) at www.updatesoftware.com/national. The NRR currently contains details of around 20 on-going or completed projects with a specific focus on beta thalassaemia, in addition to a larger number of projects covering a wider range of haemoglobinopathies. Many of these projects are funded through allocations made annually to NHS providers for research to meet the priorities and needs of the NHS and to meet the costs to the NHS of hosting research supported by external funders. The total amount allocated to NHS providers in 2003–04 for research and development was £442 million.

The NHS health technology assessment programme has published reviews of Screening for sickle cell disease and thalassaemia (2000) and Antenatal and neonatal haemoglobinopathy screening in the UK (1999). These are available on the programme's website at www.hta.nhsweb.nhs.uk.

The Medical Research Council (MRC) has a long history of research into the causes and treatment of thalassaemia. Since 1980, the MRC molecular haematology unit in Oxford has undertaken both basic research into the process by which multipotential haemopoietic stem cells differentiate into the highly specialised cells found in blood, and also more applied research into how these processes are perturbed in inherited and acquired human genetic disesases (e.g. thalassaemia). The unit has an annual budget of over £2 million. The MRC also supports two grants in this area.