The future of medical research is under threat because of cuts to government funding, more than 170 scientists and medical research groups have warned.

In a letter to The Daily Telegraph they describe their “grave concerns” that cuts to the science budget in this month’s spending review could cause “severe and lasting damage” to Britain’s work in finding cures for diseases such as breast cancer.

The science budget, which includes the Charity Research Support Fund, is vital in supporting the work of scientists and without it there would be direct consequences for patients, the group stressed.

“All of us rely on the support of this fund, which helps cover the indirect costs of research such as heating and lighting laboratories in universities, allowing charities to pay for the scientists and materials needed to understand disease and find cures,” the letter says.

“With this fund only protected until 2014-15 and with extra pressure to cut budgets, we must ensure that the government maintains its commitment to protect both the Charity Research Support Fund and the amount available through it, as well as ring-fencing the science budget so that we can continue to save and improve lives now and in the future.”

Leaders from Cancer Research UK, Breast Cancer Campaign, Parkinson’s UK and the British Heart Foundation, were among the signatories.