Rob Burrow: Leeds Rhinos legend asks 'how many more warriors' will die as wait goes on for £50m MND funding from Government

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Leeds Rhinos legend Rob Burrow has asked the Government "how many more warriors" will die from motor neurone disease (MND) as researchers are still left waiting for £50m funding.

The Health Secretary has pledged to make an announcement on motor neurone disease (MND) research funding “in days” amid the row over the whereabouts of the money.

More than a year ago the Government committed at least £50 million to help find new therapies, and eventually a cure, for MND, a condition in which the brain and nerves progressively degenerate. But the Department of Health and Social Care was accused of withholding the research funding following the death of former Scotland rugby international Doddie Weir in November.

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The Motor Neurone Disease Association said none of the money was in the hands of researchers. Rugby star Kevin Sinfield said he “can’t see any reason” why scientists cannot access the funding while his former Leeds Rhinos team-mate Rob Burrowwho also has MND – also accused ministers of holding back the cash.

File photo dated 19-07-2022 of File photo dated 09-10-2021 of Rob BurrowFile photo dated 19-07-2022 of File photo dated 09-10-2021 of Rob Burrow
File photo dated 19-07-2022 of File photo dated 09-10-2021 of Rob Burrow

Former Rhinos captain Sir Kev has raised millions in funding towards the cause himself through various challenges. His latest in November involved running around 40 miles for seven successive days.

“How many more warriors die before this stupid government give the 50m they said they would give,” Burrow said on Twitter.

Challenged about the statement on BBC Breakfast, Health Secretary Steve Barclay said: “It’s a massive priority because I have so much respect for what Rob has done, for what Kevin has done, for Doddie Weir and Ed Slater the Gloucestershire and former England and Leicester player. It’s something I’ve taken a huge personal interest in. The frustration was we’ve got the funding, the funding is all agreed, there was a concern among our science community in terms of the fact that some of the bids had come in and were not what they felt were needed from a scientific point of view.

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“I prioritise that. I’m expecting to be in a position to announce something very, very shortly on that and really to address Rob’s concern.”

He said the announcement would be in “days not weeks”.

MND charities (MND Association, My Name’5 Doddie Foundation and MND Scotland) and LifeArc on behalf of the United To End MND coalition, said in a statement: “We look forward to hearing more from Steve Barclay following his comments on BBC Breakfast this morning that there will be a further announcement in ‘days not weeks’ around the £50 million pledged by the Government last year for targeted MND research.

“Work has already started to create a national MND research institute – the inaugural meeting last week was at capacity, a clear demonstration of the eagerness of the MND research community to work together to find treatments and a cure for this brutal disease. The first seed of funding was managed in a pragmatic and creative way, enabling one efficient application to be made.

“This approach could be a way to access the £50 million while ensuring appropriate peer review and value for money.”