Action Medical Research Charity


The charity was founded in 1952 by Duncan Guthrie in his quest to find a cure for polio, a condition that affected the lives of many thousands of children including his own daughter, Janet. Early research funded by the charity helped to develop the first oral polio vaccine which eradicated new cases of the disease in the UK.
Since then we’ve been saving and changing lives through medical research and have spent over £100m, funding some of the most amazing breakthroughs:
• Discovering the importance of taking folic acid before and during pregnancy to prevent spina bifida.
• Developing the use of ultrasound technology in pregnancy.
• Creating the Matrix Seating System to help support physically disabled children as they grow.
• Testing the rubella vaccine.
But there is still so much more to do and with your help we can continue to fund more life-changing research for some of the UK’s sickest babies and children.
Professorial chairs and units funded by Action Medical Research
Earlier in our history, the charity endowed professorial departments or chairs to encourage research in various branches of medicine. Since 1963, the charity committed nearly £2 million towards 13 research chairs. The majority of these were envisaged as being in perpetuity, with the money invested by the university to maintain in whole or part, the original purpose of the endowment. Nine of these professorial departments or chairs still exist.
Name changes
During the lifetime of the charity we have had a number of name changes leading to Action Medical Research.
1952–1960 The National Fund for Poliomyelitis Research
1960–1967 The National Fund for Research into Poliomyelitis and Other Crippling Diseases, also known as the Polio Research Fund
1967–1990 The National Fund for Research into Crippling Diseases (the charity was also known informally as Action for the Crippled Child and Action Research for the Crippled Child (ARCC))
1990–2003 Action Research
2003–current Action Medical Research

For over 60 years, with the help of all our supporters, we have played a significant role in many medical breakthroughs, starting with the development of the first UK polio vaccine. Here are some highlights.
Developing cooling therapy for newborns
Each year, almost a million newborn babies worldwide will lose their lives after suffering brain injury due to oxygen shortage. Until recently there haven’t been any specific treatments to prevent this damage but a groundbreaking cooling therapy is changing that.
Funding a trial to determine when to start milk feeds for sick premature babies
Premature babies have digestive systems that are not yet fully developed and are vulnerable to infection. When fed with milk, those who have not grown in the womb properly are recognised to be at risk of developing a condition called necrotising enterocolitis which causes serious inflammation of the bowel wall. Up to 3,000 babies are affected by this a year in the UK; tragically 35 per cent of them will die.
Improving the lives of children with sickle cell disease
Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a serious genetic blood disorder which affects around 12,500 people in the UK. It is more common in people whose family origins are African, African-Caribbean, Asian or Mediterranean. SCD can cause poor blood circulation in the brain which can lead to learning difficulties.
Pioneering the fetal heart rate monitor
 Tragically, around 4,000 babies are stillborn every year and thousands of women hospitalised with pregnancy complications that put babies’ lives at risk.
Supporting the invention of a revolutionary artificial bone that grows
Metal prostheses are used to replace limb bones that have been destroyed by tumours or would otherwise require amputation. But until recently this has been problematic for children, as the implants need to be extended to keep up with the child’s natural rate of growth.
Helping to relieve pain for severely disabled children
Around one in every 20 children in the UK is registered as having a disability. Those who are severely disabled can be prone to chronic pain and yet cannot communicate how they are feeling. This means their pain can go unrecognised and untreated.
Helping protect children from meningitis since 1992
Children and babies are at particular risk of meningitis, a serious and sometimes fatal infection caused by different bacteria and viruses. Those who survive can face permanent disabilities, such as vision and hearing loss, learning difficulties and limb amputation.
Developing the Glasgow coma scale for head injury now used around the world
More than 100,000 people are admitted to UK hospitals every year with a head injury, a third of them are children.
Testing the early rubella vaccine, introduced in 1970
Rubella is a viral infection that can cause severe abnormalities in an unborn baby if contracted by the mother in the early stages of pregnancy. Also known as German measles, it can result in learning disabilities, deafness and heart problems, all symptoms of a serious condition called congenital rubella syndrome (CRS).
Discovering the importance of taking folic acid in pregnancy to prevent spina bifida
Spina bifida occurs in a baby when the spinal cord and surrounding bones do not develop properly, leaving a gap or a split. Around one in 1,000 babies in the UK are born with it and some of those who survive suffer from hydrocephalus (water on the brain) and can be left with disabilities.
Creating the award-winning matrix seat to support disabled children as they grow
Around eight out of every 10,000 children in the UK have severe disabilities and need posture support for daily activities. But specialised seats can be expensive and often cause painful pressure sores.
Developing the use of ultrasound scanning in pregnancy
Ultrasound is used in pregnancy to monitor a baby’s development and diagnose problems. It uses sound wave technology which was originally designed to detect flaws in the metal hulls of ships and to aid submarine navigation.
Protecting children from polio since 1962
Sixty years ago polio was one of the most feared diseases in the developed world, killing hundreds of children in the UK each year and leaving thousands paralysed. Between 1947 and 1958 polio disabled over 30,000 people in Britain

Head office
E  email
T 01403 210406
F 01403 210541
By post:
Action Medical Research
Vincent House
West Sussex
RH12 2DP

Action Medical Research does not provide medical advice. If you would like more information about a condition or would like to talk to someone about your health, speak to your GP or contact NHS Direct (0845 4647 or