Meningitis UK was originally called the Spencer Dayman Meningitis Laboratories in memory of founder and chief executive Steve Dayman's son, who died of meningitis and meningococcal septicaemia in 1982, aged 14-months. It was established in 1999 to fund a £500,000 state-of-the-art dedicated meningitis research laboratory in the School of Medical Sciences at University of Bristol.
Once this project was completed, the charity decided to focus solely on funding research into a preventative vaccine for all forms of meningitis.
In 2013 they merged with the Meningitis Trust and renamed to Meningitis Now. Medical research is still at the heart of what they do, together with awareness raising and support.
The charity's research programme includes projects at leading institutions and universities across the UK. Funded projects range from studies of specific immunity-boosting proteins and potential vaccine candidates, to understanding the mutation of certain strains of meningococcal bacteria against existing vaccines.
Since Dayman first got involved with the meningitis cause in 1982, significant breakthroughs have been made in combating the disease. These include the development of the Hib vaccine which was introduced into the Childhood Immunisation Programme in the UK in 1992, the meningitis C vaccine in 1999, and a vaccine to protect against pneumococcal meningitis in 2006. Since its introduction, the meningitis C vaccine has reduced cases of group C disease by over 90 per cent. Estimates show that in its first year, the pneumococcal vaccine prevented over 300 cases of serious childhood illness such as pneumococcal meningitis. In January 2010 the Department of Health announced it would be introducing a new vaccine to combat pneumococcal disease to be introduced in spring 2010.
Since January 2013, when a new vaccine against meningitis B received a European license, Meningitis Now have been campaigning for its introduction into the childhood immunisation programme in the UK.
No decision has yet been made by the UK government but bringing in the vaccine is still very much an option. The vaccine is available privately.
In the absence of a vaccine to protect against all forms of the disease, Meningitis Now also runs a nationwide awareness programme to raise awareness of the common symptoms and need to act quickly.
- Sarah Ayton
- Robin Cousins
- Denis Law
- Jane Seymour and James Keach
- Joe Swash
- Shirley Webb
- Bob Woodward