Blood test for Alzheimer’s
The expert research team, led by Professor Simon Lovestone at the University of Oxford, want to tackle the disease by developing a simple blood test. The MSF provided the donation following a poll of local masons who nominated the charity to receive a grant from the Silver Jubilee Research Fund. Alzheimer’s Research UK is one of 13 medical research charities awarded an MSF grant last year at a total cost of £1.125 million.
The donation was presented to Professor Lovestone by Oxfordshire PGM James Hilditch in October at the Nuffield Department of Medicine Research Building in Oxford.
Silver Jubilee for medical research
The Masonic Samaritan Fund has marked its 25th anniversary by donating a combined £1.125 million to 13 medical research charities
Freemasons across England and Wales nominated the worthy recipients of the MSF Silver Jubilee Research Fund last year, and presentations for the successful nominees took place in the Provinces throughout 2015 in the presence of the Provincial Grand Masters.
The final presentations took place in December 2015, with donations made to a number of good causes.
The Macular Society was presented with £100,000 for research into a cure for age-related macular degeneration, the biggest cause of sight loss in the developed world. £90,000 was presented to Parkinson’s UK to support its research into a solution for life-threatening swallowing problems that often develop in people suffering from the disease. And £100,000 was also presented to the British Heart Foundation for research into a deadly variation of a protein called titin that can cause sudden death.
From Alzheimer’s and diabetes to prosthetic limbs, local medical research projects have been chosen by Freemasons across the UK to receive grants of up to £100,000. Peter Watts finds out how the voting worked
In 2015, the Masonic Samaritan Fund (MSF) decided to mark its 25th anniversary with an unprecedented exercise. It created the Silver Jubilee Research Fund, worth £1 million, to distribute to medical research charities and then invited masons across the UK to vote for the organisations they felt should receive a share of the funds. Charities were divided regionally so Freemasons could choose from those based locally to them.
‘It’s the first time any of the masonic charities have been proactive in this way,’ says John McCrohan, Grants Director and Deputy Chief Executive of the MSF. ‘We are conscious of the support we get from the masonic brethren and wanted to get them more actively involved in choosing who we would offer support to.’
Such was the success of the project that in September 2015 the MSF announced that following votes from more than 5,000 Freemasons in 10 regional areas, 13 charities from across the UK would receive a combined £1.13 million. With masons from all over England and Wales allowed to vote, charities receiving grants included Alzheimer’s Research UK in Oxford, Tenovus Cancer Care in Cardiff and Yorkshire Cancer Research in Sheffield. ‘It really helped people to get engaged because it was happening on their doorstep, so was something they could have a view on,’ says McCrohan of the voting process.
Causes close to home
George Royle, Provincial Grand Almoner in South Wales, where Tenovus Cancer Care has been awarded £89,000, echoes McCrohan’s sentiments. ‘We liked the fact members could vote, and were behind the process from the start. Tenovus is a household name in Wales and has been going since 1943 when 10 businessmen set it up in order to fund projects across the local area,’ he says of the charity, which will use its grant to research immunotherapy treatment.
‘It is based in Cardiff but has mobile units that save a lot of travelling for people who live in the Valleys.’
Every charity that applied for funding had to go into detail about the research it was planning, which was then analysed by the MSF board of experts.
‘We began by approaching every charity that was a member of the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC), which is around 130 charities,’ says McCrohan. ‘We wrote to each one, inviting them to apply and letting them know we were looking to support high-quality medical research. That meant they already met a very high standard in terms of peer review and evaluation.’
Just over 60 charities applied, and the MSF panel shortlisted 30 for the ballot, to be voted on by Freemasons. As well as drawing applications from a range of areas – from combating cancer and heart disease to designing prosthetic limbs – the MSF wanted to involve charities from across the country. ‘That was the unknown,’ says McCrohan. ‘We could have received all our applications from Oxford and London, two of the established centres of excellence, but we got applications from far and wide – Bristol, Southampton, Newcastle, Manchester, Liverpool and Cardiff. We had enough numbers to break it up regionally, which meant masons could vote for charities that were either based locally or had research taking place in their region.’
The power of engagement
McCrohan was pleased at the way masons responded to the initiative, particularly as the entire process took place electronically, via email, newsletters and links to websites where masons could read about how the charities intended to use the grants. ‘We wanted to challenge the perception that because Freemasons are an older generation, they might not engage with online information,’ he says.
The Jubilee fund has also raised awareness of the work that the MSF undertakes to help masons and non-masons alike. ‘Our non-masonic medical research complements the support that we give to individual masons with their health and care needs,’ says McCrohan. ‘The hope is that our support of medical research will benefit the whole of society and not just the masonic community.’
Allan Peates is Provincial Grand Almoner for Oxfordshire, where a grant of £100,000 has been awarded to Alzheimer’s Research UK. He points out how the Jubilee fund is a chance for the MSF to talk publicly about its work. ‘The MSF does a brilliant job with individual masons and their families, but a lot is unseen because people don’t always like to admit they received a grant,’ he says. ‘If you need a procedure the MSF will fund it, but the recipient won’t necessarily want people to know where the money came from.’
Allan is delighted that Alzheimer’s Research UK came top of the Jubilee poll in his region. ‘We had 62 per cent of people in our area vote for the Alzheimer’s research project,’ he says. ‘Alzheimer’s has to be at the top of our priorities, along with prostate cancer, and the charity is going to use the money to try and develop a blood test for early detection.’
As a result of the Jubilee fund, the MSF has raised its profile among the medical research community, and McCrohan hopes this will bring rewards further down the line. ‘We’ve become more aware of the research that is going on and more connected to that community. We want to be well known within the funding sector so people can come to us.’
Above all though, McCrohan hopes that masons will get involved in similar enterprises. ‘We are privileged to be entrusted with their funds and it’s only right we consult them on how they are distributed. It’s a model we’d like to repeat in the future. There are a lot of Freemasons who will never come to Great Queen Street in London, so their experience of Freemasonry is a very local one. This allows them to contribute to the way the charities based in London operate. Hopefully that’s been a positive experience.’
Oxfordshire Freemasons have presented a Masonic Samaritan Fund (MSF) grant of £100,000 to Alzheimer’s Research UK to help them fund pioneering research into new tools for dementia diagnosis.
Alzheimer’s is the leading cause of dementia in the UK, with half a million people living with the disease. However, the early stages of memory loss can often be attributed to a range of different factors, making an accurate and timely diagnosis a huge challenge. This means people don’t receive the correct support and miss out on opportunities to take part in clinical research.
The expert research team, led by Professor Simon Lovestone at the University of Oxford, want to tackle this by developing a simple blood test for Alzheimer’s disease.
The MSF provided the £100,000 donation following a poll of local Freemasons who nominated the Charity to receive a grant from the Silver Jubilee Research Fund. Alzheimer’s Research UK is one of 13 medical research charities to be awarded a grant by the MSF this year at a total cost of £1.125million.
The donation was presented to Professor Simon Lovestone by the Provincial Grand Master for the Province of Oxfordshire, James Hilditch, on 15th October at the Nuffield Department of Medicine Research Building, Old Road Campus.
Speaking on behalf of local Freemasons, James Hilditch said: “Alzheimer’s is a disease that affects so many of us, family, friends and colleagues. Over 550 Freemasons from around the Oxfordshire area nominated Alzheimer’s Research UK to receive a grant and we are very proud to be able to demonstrate our support for the fight against dementia.”
The first three years of Professor Simon Lovestone’s project have been incredibly successful, with the discovery of a protein ‘fingerprint’ in blood that could predict whether someone with mild memory problems will go on to develop Alzheimer’s. To date, the Freemasons’ charities have provided over £560,000 to Alzheimer’s Research UK.
Hilary Evans, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“This incredibly generous gift has the power to improve clinical trials for Alzheimer’s disease. We know that many of the drug trials that have taken place so far – and failed – have been carried out in people in the later stages of Alzheimer’s. But it is likely that for new drugs to be effective, they’ll have to be given much earlier in the disease course. A simple blood test to help predict whether people with mild memory problems will go on to develop Alzheimer’s has huge potential to ensure people receive the right drugs at the right time.”
Voting to determine which health and care charities will receive a share of the MSF's £1m Silver Jubilee Research Fund is now closed
Over 5,100 Freemasons made their voices count during June when they nominated one proposal, from an agreed shortlist of medical research studies, to receive a grant of up to £100k. Votes have been received from every Province across England and Wales, and from the Metropolitan Grand Lodge area.
The final allocation of funds will be confirmed by the MSF Trustees at their meeting in September, but early indications suggest significant support for research which aims to prevent, more accurately diagnose and treat cancers and degenerative diseases.
It remains the intention to invite senior members from across the Provinces, and from the Metropolitan Grand Lodge area, to present the awarded research grants to the winning charities. Full details of the recipient charities will be provided in September on the MSF's website and via the Fund's e-newsletter.
Thank you to all who participated and offered support to one of the shortlisted research projects. We value your opinion and appreciate your support.
To mark the 25th anniversary of the Masonic Samaritan Fund the charity is donating £1 million in grants to medical research projects
The fund now invites every Freemason to nominate one proposal from an agreed shortlist of five research projects, based in or near their Province. You can make your voice count by voting on the MSF's website at: www.msfund.org.uk/research
The doctors, consultants and care experts that make up the MSF's Trustee Board have identified the shortlist of research projects which are all high quality and worthy of your support. With only £1m of funding available through the Silver Jubilee Research Fund, there is an obvious need to make some difficult decisions – and we need your help!
Whilst most of the MSF's trustees are Freemasons, this is the first time in their 25-year history that the fund has invited the wider membership to support a specific research project or cause in their communities.
On the fund's website a summary of each research project has been provided with sufficient detail to enable you to make an informed decision. You will have the choice between five research projects based in, or near, the Province. You can cast your nomination by simply clicking the 'vote now' button.
Only Freemasons, or their widows, are invited to nominate a project so you must provide details of your full name and email address, Province and lodge name and number in order for your vote to be verified and registered.
What research study do you wish the MSF to support in our region? Make your voice count at: www.msfund.org.uk/reseach
The silver shortlist
To mark the 25th anniversary of the Masonic Samaritan Fund (MSF), the trustees are making available £1 million in support of medical and care research projects
The MSF is planning to award grants of up to £100,000 in 10 regions across England and Wales. Its Silver Jubilee Research Fund originally received 62 grant applications, seeking nearly £9 million in support. However, with only £1 million available through the fund, the charity will need to make some difficult decisions.
Since 2011, the MSF has supported research projects that aim to improve the prevention, detection, diagnosis, treatment and care available for illnesses and disabilities that affect masonic families and the wider community. Nearly £2 million has been awarded to large and small research organisations such as Breakthrough Breast Cancer, Carers UK and the A-T Society.
Several research projects funded by the MSF have achieved significant success in their field. A £181,000 grant awarded to Alzheimer’s Research UK has helped to develop a new blood test that, it is hoped, will predict whether someone with early memory problems will develop Alzheimer’s within a year. Two grants totalling £75,000 awarded to RAFT (the Restoration of Appearance and Function Trust) have helped to develop a working prototype of a bionic arm fit for human trials, in a bid to compensate for the loss of a limb. A grant of £34,000, presented to Prostate Cancer UK, has helped Dr Hayley Whitaker and her team to identify that the presence of a specific protein can distinguish prostate cancers that are aggressive from those that may never seriously harm the patient.
For further details about the Silver Jubilee Research Fund and the research studies shortlisted for a grant in your Province, please visit www.msfund.org.uk/research
Consulting for consolidation
The 2015 MSF members’ meeting was hosted at Freemasons’ Hall in March and marked the start of the formal process of consultation with the charity’s members regarding the proposal to consolidate the four central masonic charities.
The proposed consolidation seeks to ensure that the full range of support currently provided by the central masonic charities will continue to be available to all eligible applicants and will be delivered in the most cost-effective manner.
Throughout the transition process and beyond, health and care grants will be accessible for eligible beneficiaries seeking treatment, care and support without undue delay or expense.
Full details of the information provided by the MSF president and CEO are available at www.msfund.org.uk/news.php
The consultation will conclude at the next members’ meeting on 29 October 2015. For further information on the consolidation of the charities, see www.masoniccharities.org.uk/review