THE idea that cancer research in Oxford might have suffered because money and attention have been focused on Covid-19 research is appalling.

However it is also, depressingly, very believable.

Oxford University, in its statement to us, made a key point which can often be forgotten: “Like all academic departments, oncology obtains a significant proportion of its funding from grants for specific research projects, which can lead to significant fluctuations over time.”

It might sound awful to talk about ‘trends’ or ‘fashions’ in something as dignified and worthy as medical research, but that is exactly what happens.

To paint just one hypothetical picture, imagine a large corporation that donates a portion of its profits to medical research each year.

Now imagine you are the CEO of that corporation and you have to decide what medical cause to donate funds to this year – are there any particular medical causes that spring to mind?

Perhaps something that might look good in your PR and advertising?

This is all hypothetical, and we are not saying that bias as simple as this has directly led to the job cuts now being discussed at Oxford’s Department of Oncology, but it gives a flavour for how some medical funding really does work.

With that in mind, it is also worth considering that there is only so much that throwing money at Covid-19 research can achieve: there are only so many scientists, and so many labs, and they are all working as fast as they can – after a certain point, the money will just start piling up.

Meanwhile, major drug companies are vying for the chance to produce an eventual vaccine, for which they will get Government funding.

Yes, of course we need research to fight the coronavirus, but that research is already happening.

Our determination to solve that problem cannot be at the expense of vital research into other life-changing conditions.