Muscular dystrophy and related conditions cause muscles to waste and weaken. More than 70,000 people in the UK are affected.
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Richard Attenborough Fellowship

Lord Richard Attenborough is a world-renowned actor, and director, but one of his proudest achievements has been his impact on the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign and all those living with muscular dystrophy and related neuromuscular conditions in the UK.

Lord Attenborough first took note of the work of the Muscular Dystrophy Group (as it was then known) in 1962. He went to a local hospital fête where he met some young boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. He'd never heard of the condition and made a point of finding out as much as he could about it. He also made a promise to himself to do what he could to support the work of the charity.

That was fifty years ago. During the half-century since then, he has received a CBE (1967), was knighted (1976) and created a life peer (1993). Alongside his significant career in film, Lord Attenborough has also contributed considerably to raising the profile of the charity; not only has he generated hundreds of thousands of pounds for us, but he also served as President of the charity for 30 years. Now an Honorary Life President (since 2004), Lord Attenborough remains an inspirational supporter of the charity.

The Muscular Dystrophy Campaign has been extremely close to my heart since I first joined the Group as a Vice President in 1962. I have never forgotten learning at first hand of the impact of muscular dystrophy on boys with Duchenne and being so moved and indeed distressed to find that there were really no effective treatments and indeed no sign of a cure even on the far horizon in those days," Lord Attenborough said.

Driven to do what he could to change this, Lord Attenborough set up an appeals committee in the 1980s that raised millions of pounds for research into muscular dystrophy and related neuromuscular conditions. His determination has always inspired people, leading many of his friends and indeed the general public to support our work and, as a result, we have been able to make a growing investment in scientific research. We are closer now than we have ever been to the first treatments, and we need to build on these significant achievements.

In honouring Lord Attenborough's commitment to research, we are launching the Richard Attenborough Fellowship fund to enable the charity to drive forward his initial work. Through this fund, the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign will be able to offer Richard Attenborough Fellowships to ensure clinical research and training continues at the leading UK neuromuscular centres in Newcastle, Oxford and London.

The Muscular Dystrophy Campaign today invests around £1m per year into world-class, pioneering medical research and its programme, which has an international reputation for excellence, has more than 20 live projects at any one time.

Since Lord Attenborough's original appeal there have been huge scientific advances: the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign has been one of the few funders to identify and invest in the early stages of neuromuscular research, laying the foundations for the most promising projects currently in clinical trials.

Lord Attenborough is most proud of the fact that the charity spearheaded the development of exon skipping* in the early 1990s and now, after twenty years of work, exon skipping is potentially a viable treatment that can one day improve the quality of life of many boys affected by the condition. What was once just a hope 50 years ago now shows real potential for a treatment.

The Muscular Dystrophy Campaign leads the way in scientific research into muscular dystrophy and related neuromuscular conditions in the UK. It has taken many years to get to this stage, but we are closer now than we have ever been to the first treatments becoming available. We need to build on his achievement.

By developing a Fellowship fund in his name, we are able to build on Lord Attenborough's incredible support. It will drive forward the research he worked so hard to develop, ensuring the momentum is maintained. It will see treatments developed and progressed to clinical trial to benefit the families affected by muscular dystrophy and other related neuromuscular conditions.

One of the limiting factors in developing research and conducting trials is the shortage of neuromuscular researchers and clinical specialists. Thanks to this fund, the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign will be able to offer Richard Attenborough Fellowships for clinical research and training at the leading UK centres such as Newcastle, Oxford and London.

Lord Attenborough was always extremely passionate about raising funds for research. If you would like to make a donation to the Richard Attenborough Fellowship or find out more about the appeal, please contact our Development Manager Claire O'Connor by email c.oconnor@muscular-dystrophy.org or phone 0207 803 4861.

Tags: Testimonials

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