16 March 2023

Bowel Research UK Launches New ‘Hard to Fund’ Fund


Bowel Research UK, the national charity that funds early-stage medical research into all bowel diseases, has launched a new fund dedicated to researching the bowel diseases and conditions that struggle for backing from conventional funding mechanisms.

The new ‘Hard to Fund’ fund (HTFF) has been specially created to address the funding gap for ‘unfashionable’ or uncommon bowel diseases and conditions, with the charity pledging to ringfence between 10% and 25% of the money it raises annually to HTFF projects.

Bowel Research UK has identified six main criteria for assessing applications for HTFF projects, these are:

  • Rarer conditions or diseases
  • Diseases or conditions requiring different research methods
  • Conditions with long term quality of life issues resulting from surgery or other treatments
  • Diseases or conditions that need cross disciplinary research
  • Emerging technologies or particularly ‘novel’ approaches; and
  • Under-represented populations


To illustrate a couple of these categories, conditions such as Lower Anterior Resection Syndrome (LARS), can cause faecal incontinence, leakage or urgency in people who’ve had surgery for bowel cancer.

LARS affects many hundreds of thousands of people and can severely reduce someone’s quality of life, often leading to personal isolation and disengagement from normal social activities. It urgently needs more understanding through new medical research programmes.

Other bowel diseases or conditions needing HTFF support do not fall neatly into the usual research categories. For example, cross disciplinary studies involving colorectal surgeons, nurses and specialist medical researchers working in close collaboration with patients. The data collected by cross disciplinary studies tends to be generated from individual patient histories rather than by a typical pharmaceutical company’s Phase III clinical trial which analyses anonymised data from thousands of patients.  Cross disciplinary studies `are usually more difficult to raise funding for.

As part of the marketing of the new HTFF, the charity will be offering opportunities for individual donors or companies to fund specific HTFF projects, including projects addressing underrepresented populations such as hard to reach ethnic and cultural groups (LBGTQ+; deaf; blind; learning difficulties) as well as those who are underrepresented or overlooked due to rarity and therefore low disease numbers.

The HTFF applications will be subject to same exacting scrutiny as other research grants awarded by the charity. Applicants for funding will be asked to submit relevant proposals to its existing grants system, and Bowel Research UK will decide which projects will be funded under the new HTFF arrangements.

Currently, Bowel Research UK charity awards grants of up to £50,000 for smaller research projects and £150,000 for individual PhDs.


Lynn Dunne, CEO of Bowel Research UK, said:

“We are delighted to have launched our new Hard to Fund fund. We believe we are the first national medical research charity to earmark financial support solely for projects that don’t normally get funded.”

“Collectively, these diseases and conditions affect very large numbers of people who are desperate for new treatments, cures or just much better management of their conditions.

“We will be allocating up to 25% of the money we raise to Hard to Fund projects, and we encourage individual researchers and smaller research teams to submit applications through our normal grant awards processes. These will be scrutinised and vetted to the same high standards as all our other grants.”