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Cancer research and global health initiative

Please note this opportunity is now CLOSED.
View all OPEN opportunities

  • Status: Closed
  • Open date: 23 Apr 2018
  • Closing date: 20 Jun 2018 16:00 GMT+1
  • Type: Grants, MRC strategic
  • Meeting date: 26 - 27 Sep 2018
Please note, the latest start date for pump-priming projects has been amended to 15 November 2018.
Please note: The 'Non-UK component' attachment request on JeS is for a Letter of Support from the LMIC-based institution the co-Investigator is based at. The letter should provide context on the support offered to the researcher (admin, technical staff, etc) at the institution and should come from the Head of Department or equivalent.



In 2015 the Government launched the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) to ensure UK research takes the lead in addressing some of the diverse challenges faced by developing countries.

Through GCRF, the MRC has increased its support for research that addresses the health challenges faced by low and middle income countries (LMICs).

GCRF funds have been made available to all our research boards and panels to support proposals that qualify under Official Development Assistance (ODA). Proposals must be led by researchers based at a UK higher education institution or at an eligible independent research institution. In addition, we support research areas that can benefit from developing/establishing collaborative networks with LMIC-based partners through targeted GCRF pump-priming awards.

Cancer is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in the world, accounting for approximately 8 million deaths in 2015, with an estimated global economic cost of US$1.16 trillion. The challenge to cope with such a burden is even greater LMICs, where most global deaths from cancer are recorded and where the number of cancer cases is expected to increase by 80% by 2030.

In spite of this increasing challenge, these countries have tended to focus on more immediate health needs, such as infectious diseases. As a result, prevention, screening and treatment strategies remain underdeveloped and knowledge on distinctive risk factors for cancer in LMICs, such as environmental exposure, genetic or lifestyle differences is lacking. Research aimed at understanding malignancies with disproportionate incidence in LMICs will help find solutions to prevent disease, and treat and manage cancer patients.

We would like to expand our portfolio of research in cancer and global health to help tackle these challenges in low and middle income countries.

We are pleased to announce two parallel calls through our cancer research and global health initiative as part of our activities under GCRF. The activities supported through these calls will contribute to the UK’s commitment to research for the benefit of LMICs.

  1. Cancer research and global health: pump-priming call 
  2. Cancer research and global health: call for outlines for substantive research proposals 

Proposals must meet the ODA requirements, focus on issues primarily relevant to LMICs and aim to achieve one or more of the following goals:

  • Develop new research strategies to tackle the cancer challenges that are relevant to LMICs in the short, medium and long-term
  • Develop new UK-LMIC research partnerships or enhance and expand on existing ones
  • Identify opportunities and assess feasibility of large-scale cancer global health research projects in partnership with LMICs
  • Extend scope of existing research to LMIC settings
  • Apply novel / potentially high-risk approaches to cancer research, with opportunities for multidisciplinary approaches
  • Produce preliminary data and develop concepts for future grant applications
  • Create pathways to impact in LMICs

Proposals for both calls should be submitted by 20 June 2018, 16:00 through the Je-S system. All proposals will be reviewed by an expert panel, which will convene in late September 2018.

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Pump-priming call


The purpose of this call is to provide “pump-priming” funds to undertake projects to generate preliminary data and establish/expand/consolidate UK-LMIC partnerships.

Applications must be led by Principal Investigators based in UK institutions, but at least one LMIC-based researcher must be named as Co-Investigator.

Successful partnerships will define research questions in a field or interrelated fields, assess the viability of proposed approaches relevant to the local socioeconomic and cultural context, gather preliminary findings, and develop and test the feasibility of sustainable UK-LMIC research partnerships.

Awards of up to £200,000 will be made for projects up to a maximum of 24 months in duration. Projects must start as soon as possible after the funding decision, and no later than 15 November 2018.

We expect awardees to take advantage of the preliminary data obtained and the partnerships developed to inform and underpin more substantive research proposals that will be submitted through our regular board and panel funding opportunities or future targeted GCRF calls.

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We will accept proposals for research addressing challenges related to cancers of high impact and/or increasing burden in LMICs, including but not restricted to these areas:

  • Cancer biology
  • Aetiology and epidemiology
  • Prevention, early detection and screening
  • Cancers and infections
  • Cancer treatment
  • Health systems research
  • Methodology research
  • Drug discovery and translational research
  • Use of technologies for cancer control in LMICs

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Eligible costs

Costs for UK-based activities should be requested at 80% Full Economic Costing (FEC).

Given the special nature of this call, funds should be focused on the direct costs of the work planned (research/technical staff and consumables), with minimal, if any, costs for indirect and estates.

Certain ‘exceptional’ costs for LMIC partners can be requested at 100% FEC. Please see full details on eligible costs in our call guidance.

The funding can be used to support: 

  • Networking meetings and other events to develop strategy and partnerships for future activities
  • Small pump-priming projects to generate preliminary data for future applications
  • Salary costs for existing research staff, where these can be shown to be making a clear and important contribution to the development of proposed activities
  • Travel and accommodation expenses

The funding is not intended to support: 

  • Continuation of normal research grants
  • PhD studentships or fellowships

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Call for outlines for substantive research proposals


Researchers are invited to apply for funding for fully-developed researcher-led research projects and programmes that will help us expand our portfolio of investments in ODA-relevant global health, and tackle the most important health research questions in cancer in LMICs.

To support the research community in developing their research plans, and to try and coordinate interest, we are inviting outlines for substantive research proposals (usually 3-5 years in duration).

The Cancer Research and Global Health panel will assess the outlines and provide feedback. Outlines that are positioned to present competitive proposals for funding will be invited to submit full applications to the next available research board deadlines, and applicants are expected to include a cover letter within their full proposal in which they explain how they have responded to the panel’s feedback.

In contrast to the pump-priming call, this call is targeted at researchers with established research plans and underpinning data to support larger, longer-term projects, and established partnerships within the UK or with LMICs.

This call does not require partnerships with researchers in LMICs, but the research must meet the ODA requirements.

Researchers will be able to submit outlines for all researcher-led grant types considered by our research boards, and should check in advance of submitting their full proposal (if invited) which board's remit would best fit.

Note: If you are an applicant who is ready to submit a full ODA-relevant research proposal to a research Board, you are not required to submit an outline application. You can submit your full proposal directly at the next available deadline.

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Proposals should fall within the remit of our research boards. Cancer research proposals typically fall within the remit of the Molecular and Cellular Medicine Board, however in some instances the Infections & Immunity or Population & Systems Medicine Boards can be more appropriate, for example vaccine research should go to the Infections & Immunity Board and longitudinal studies, population and disease cohorts should go to the Population & Systems Medicine Board.

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Eligible costs

Costs for UK-based activities should be requested at 80% Full Economic Costing (FEC). Certain ‘exceptional’ costs for LMIC partners can be requested at 100% FEC. Further information on costs is provided in the call guidance.

Please direct any remit queries to globalcancer@headoffice.mrc.ac.uk.

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Assessment of pump-priming proposals and outlines

Applications will be assessed by an expert panel. The panel will make award decisions for the pump-priming applications and will provide feedback on the outline applications and decide which outlines will be invited to submit full proposals. The panel decisions are final and there will be no opportunity to respond to the feedback, other than through changes integrated within invited full proposals.

The panel meeting will take place in September 2018. Further details on the assessment criteria can be found within the call guidance.

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The lead applicant must be based at a UK higher education institution or at an eligible independent research institution (including all MRC Units and Institutes). All funding will be managed through the lead organisation.  

For the pump-priming call: Researchers based in institutions outside the UK are eligible to apply as co-applicants only and not as the lead applicant. Developing UK-LMIC research partnerships is a central objective of the call and so at least one LMIC-based scientist must be included as a co-applicant.

For the outlines for substantive projects call: While co-applicants from LMICs are encouraged for the outlines for substantive projects, they are not a formal requirement as long as the work still meets the ODA requirements. LMIC co-applicants may be based at higher education institutions, non-profit research institutions or non-governmental organisations, and should be registered on Je-S. Researchers based in institutions outside the UK are eligible to apply as co-investigators or collaborators only and not as the lead applicant.

We welcome industrial collaborators but note that they cannot be recipients of funding. The role of industrial partners must be clearly explained, with special emphasis on the benefit to LMICs. When an industrial collaborator is involved, a MICA form must be submitted with the proposal.

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If you have any queries, including questions regarding remit and eligible costs, please check the regularly updated FAQs document in the first instance.

If the document does not contain your answer please contact globalcancer@headoffice.mrc.ac.uk.

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Key dates

Event Date

Open date

23 April 2018


20 June 2018

Panel meeting

Day 1: Pump-Priming Call proposals

Day 2: Outlines for substantive proposals

26 and 27 September 2018

Latest start date for pump-priming projects

15 November 2018

Latest end date for pump-prime projects

14 November 2020

Earliest deadline for full grant proposals invited to research boards

January 2019

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