Meningitis Research Foundation is investing a £70,000 donation from a charity set up in memory of a Yorkshire girl to fund research exploring the protection of teenagers and young adults against Meningococcal Group B (MenB) disease in the UK.
Grants of up to £35,000, for a maximum of 12 months, will be awarded by Meningitis Research Foundation to support innovative research that has the potential to advance MenB protection among young people – who are one of the groups at greatest risk of the disease.
A £70,000 donation, made by The Jessica Bethell Charitable Foundation, will be used to fund the research. Jessica Bethell, from Middleham in North Yorkshire, died in 2012 at the age of 24 having contracted MenB. Last year marked the tenth anniversary of Jessica’s death. Her legacy continues to live on through The Jessica Bethell Charitable Foundation, with the research call, which will explore the strain of the meningococcal disease that took Jessica’s life, being carried out in her memory.
Liz Rodgers, Head of Research at Meningitis Research Foundation, said investing funding in this area is key given the rebound in cases of MenB in teenagers and young adults following the lifting of pandemic restrictions.
“Research is a vital part of our mission to defeat meningitis, and it is thanks to the tireless fundraising efforts of supporters like Jessica’s family and friends, that we can continue to fund ground-breaking projects that address the most critical issues faced in the field of meningitis and septicaemia today,” she said.
“Meningitis can affect anyone, anywhere, at any time and is a disease that has no borders. As we mark the tenth anniversary of Jessica’s death, supporting MenB research remains more important than ever - with UK data from 2021 having revealed a sharp increase in cases of MenB following the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, particularly in teenagers and young adults studying at colleges and universities. Data from 2022 indicates this dominance of MenB is a continued trend.
“We are therefore delighted to have the opportunity to award catalyst grants that will support the undertaking of innovative research, that will inform the next generation of meningitis research funding and have the potential for impactful and long lasting clinical and public health benefits.”
The research applications received are currently going through a rigorous review period, guided by Meningitis Research Foundation's Scientific Advisory Panel of ten international experts, which includes the leading clinicians and scientists studying meningitis today.
Reflecting on the research call in their daughter’s name, Jessica’s Mum, Sally, said: “We feel extremely proud that as we mark the tenth anniversary of Jessica’s passing, we are able to continue to honour her memory. By supporting research we can learn more about this type of meningitis, so that no other family has to experience the devastating loss of loved one. We will never understand how a beautiful, healthy young person like our daughter could pass away so suddenly. We miss her more than words can say and always will. We formed the Jessica Bethell Charitable Foundation as a lasting tribute to our beloved daughter and to raise money for worthy causes.”
Since Meningitis Research Foundation was founded in 1989, the charity has awarded over 160 research grants, investing over £19.1million in vital scientific research into meningitis. Research highlights have included identifying cold hands and feet, limb pain and pale or mottled skin as early symptoms of meningococcal sepsis and informing treatment decisions made by health care professionals in the follow up care for meningitis survivors. Other scientific research successes funded by MRF include the establishment of the MRF- Meningococcal Genome Library. A tool which was instrumental in revealing that a steep rise in MenW cases in England and Wales was driven by a particularly deadly strain of bacteria, originating from South America –a discovery which helped support the routine introduction of MenACWY vaccination for teenagers in the UK; stopping this deadly disease in its tracks.
For information about research projects funded by Meningitis Research Foundation, visit: meningitis.org/research-projects.
To make a donation to Jessica’s remembrance fund please visit: Jessica Bethell | Meningitis Research Foundation