Medical charities clocked up a £399m investment in university research during 1997-98, and are thought to have put in a further £471m in the past year.

It is by any standards a huge sum - government departments collectively spent a little more than£300m on all subject areas.

All this finds a collective voice in the Association of Medical Research Charities, which brings together 90 separate charities, most of them small- scale operations with an annual spend of less than£1m a year, but also covering some of the real giants.

The undisputed king of medical research charities is the Wellcome Trust. Its£212m spend last year makes it almost four times the size of the next largest, the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, which in turn spent£57m while, at number three, the Cancer Research Campaign pumped in£51m.

No fewer than five cancer charities feature in the Times Higher Education Supplement's top 10 of medical charities, while the British Heart Foundation (£44m), Arthritis and Rheumatism Campaign (£17m) and British Diabetic Association (£5m) stake a claim for other conditions.

At the time of writing, the Academy of Medical Sciences, which surely has something to say on the subject, was still constructing its website - maybe it is there now.

In the meantime, there is always the Medical Research Council or the broader British Association for the Advancement of Science.

And, as a reminder that medical research can be a highly controversial area, the British Medical Association has put the Helsinki Agreement on biomedical research involving human subjects on its website along with proposals for its reform.

This key text, deriving from the post-war Nuremberg trials, is currently being updated by the World Medical Association, and all suggestions are welcome.