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Board strategy (MCMB)

The MRC’s high-level research priorities and how these will be tackled are summarised in its strategic plan (PDF, 2.15MB). The Research Boards are one of the principal vehicles for delivering MRC investments and Molecular and Cellular Medicine Board’s (MCMB) science underpins many of these research priorities.

Within these high-level priorities, the MCMB takes responsibility for the MRC’s regenerative medicine activities, which incorporates strategic funding for new translational initiatives, regenerative medicine and tissue engineering. If you wish to discuss submitting an application in this area please contact Dr Megan Dowie.

The Boards play an important role in developing strategy, both within their particular areas of responsibility but also helping to shape MRC’s overarching strategy. The report of the last MCMB strategy discussion (PDF, 68KB) in July 2017 is available to download. Working across the MRC and with other partners, often through targeted initiatives, MCMB aims to tackle key gaps in knowledge and infrastructure needs to deliver new insights and benefits to human health.

Three Board Opportunities areas have been identified where MCMB wishes to encourage high-quality proposals and enhance MRC investment. These are described more fully below and will be used by MCMB, alongside overarching opportunities (early independent investigators, experimental medicine and advanced therapeutics), to prioritise investments during funding discussions. MCMB will assess progress against its opportunity areas annually but expects to retain them for at least three years.

In addition, MCMB Is keen to support researchers seeking to establish their independence or who are early in their independence. MCMB is also strongly committed to the development of new technologies and their application to biomedical science and is keen to see applications that fall under the MRC/BBSRC/EPSRC Technology Touching Life (TTL) initiative. This aims to foster interdisciplinary research into innovative technological capabilities that will drive world-leading basic health and life sciences discovery research. MCMB is happy to support joint funding with its partner research councils. Aligned with the interests of TTL is the Research Complex at Harwell partnership which offers laboratory space and specialist equipment to support work using the Diamond synchrotron, Central Laser Facility and ISIS neutron facility on the Harwell campus. MCMB is keen to consider applications that seek accommodation within this facility. If you wish to discuss submitting an application in this area please contact Dr Anne McGavigan.

Global health is also a strategic priority of the MRC and MCMB is keen to receive applications in this area that fall within the Board remit. Notable opportunities include research that explores the links between environmental exposure and human disease in Low and Middle-Income Counties (LMICs) under the UKRI Global Challenges Research Fund initiative. If you wish to discuss submitting an application in this area please contact the relevant Programme Manager described under Science contacts.

Board opportunities:

Understanding dynamic biological systems

MCMB is keen to support research that applies state-of-the-art technologies, quantitative analytical tools and systems approaches to understand complex and dynamic biology at different scales in health and disease: genotype-to-phenotype, single cells, tissue, organism (including human and model systems). This includes:

  • improved approaches to image across scales (bi-directional studies from molecular/structure-function, macromolecular, cellular, and physiology/in vivo)
  • improved experimental systems (cell, tissue, animal models), including tissue models that go beyond current approaches and introduce stroma, connective tissue, vasculature etc.
  • the use of bioinformatics, mathematics, machine learning, and computational modelling to analyse biological systems, and understand biological complexity and pathological readouts
  • the application of these approaches and knowledge to develop gene/cell therapies and cell/tissue engineering systems biology for drug target discovery/validation/development and understanding mechanisms of drug action, toxicology and resistance

If you wish to discuss submitting an application in this area please contact the relevant Programme Manager described under Science contacts.

Exposures, biological mechanisms and disease

Understanding the causal links between current and emerging environmental exposure threats (e.g. air pollution, chemicals, nanoparticles, mixtures etc.) and human disease is a priority for the MRC and highlighted in its Strategic Plan (PDF, 2.15MB). To build on evidence of risks identified from epidemiological studies requires a deepening mechanistic understanding of biological targets and pathways (such as molecular initiating events, cellular stress responses, adverse outcome pathways etc.) linking specific exposures to toxicity and disease – this includes all types of exposures from environmental (air, particulates, noise etc) to medicines. 

MCMB is keen to see applications that tackle these challenges, including:

  • exploring the causal relationships and mechanistic pathways linking toxic exposures and adverse outcomes
  • analysing multi-dimensional data to study insults and the molecular / cellular / physiological readouts to disease, and the influence of genotype on these
  • developing computational models and experimental challenge systems to study exposures, biological effects and causal pathways
  • establishing robust translational pathways to policy, clinical setting, and industry

Opportunities for collaborative research partnerships (e.g. biomedical scientists, physicists / engineers, chemists, bioinformaticians) and application of interdisciplinary approaches (e.g. chemical biology, computational / systems biology, imaging technologies, innovative model systems e.g. organoids) to support these objectives are particularly encouraged.

As part of MRC’s capacity-building activities in toxicology (including that related to environmental exposures and adverse drug reactions), MCMB supports the Integrative Toxicology Training Partnership through its core investment through the MRC Toxicology Unit to strengthen training, academic networking and capacity building across complementary disciplines of toxicology research.

MCMB is happy to consider joint funding with NERC in areas of common interest.

If you wish to discuss submitting an application in this area please contact Dr Tim Cullingford.

Radiation oncology and biology

Radiotherapy continues to be an essential tool in cancer treatment, and advances in the understanding of radiation biology continue to inform the development of optimized treatments for many tumour types. Whilst notable efforts have been made over the last decade to strengthen radiation biology and oncology research in the UK, more investment is needed to further enhance the research base, raise the UK’s competitiveness in the field and deliver cutting-edge clinical care.    

To help stimulate these developments, MCMB wishes to encourage applications that:

  • apply cutting-edge imaging/molecular/cell technologies to explore the mechanisms underlying the biological responses to radiation in malignant and healthy tissues, at the molecular, cellular, tissue and organ levels
  • integrate DNA damage/repair research with radiation biology approaches to exploit the molecular responses to injury in a clinical context
  • employ integrative approaches to investigate the role of the stroma, vasculature and host immunological responses to radiation
  • improve the therapeutic effects of radiation in the treatment of cancer, including through precision targeting and scheduling/dosing, combining radiation with drugs and biological agents, and developing biomarkers of response

If you wish to discuss submitting an application in this area please contact Dr Mariana Delfino-Machin