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Insight blog

Stories about the people, science and research of the Medical Research Council.

Resilient science: Adapting to the new normal

16 Oct 2020

Research has continued at the Research Complex at Harwell (RCaH) in recent months, adapting to the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic. As Director of this unique UKRI cross-disciplinary facility, Professor David Payne discusses the importance of resilient science for the research community this week in Research Professional News and in an excerpt below.

Image credit: The Research Complex at Harwell [...]

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The National Gallery mental health audio tour: a year on

15 Oct 2020

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues, it is important that people look after their mental health. The theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day is ‘mental health for all’. In the light of these two things, we talk to Dr Helen Fisher, Reader in Developmental Psychopathology at King’s College London, to look back over a mental health initiative that began on World Mental Health Day last year to see what impact it has had.

Image credit: The National Gallery, London [...]

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Understanding the impact of the pandemic on people with mental ill health

12 Oct 2020

Back in June, MRC Executive Chair, Professor Fiona Watt, outlined how researchers were tackling the far-reaching effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on our mental health. Here, Gordon Johnston, a peer researcher with lived experience of mental ill health, and a co-applicant on the University of York’s Optimising Wellbeing during Self-isolation (OWLS) project – a project recently funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) – describes its background, his involvement, and how it can help us understand the impact of Covid-19 on mental ill health.

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Human-Challenge Trials – Should we deliberately infect volunteers with Covid-19 to test a vaccine?

5 Oct 2020

The race is on to find a vaccine for Covid-19. What are the pros and cons of deliberately infecting young, healthy volunteers, in a controlled environment, to speed up the process of finding a vaccine that works? Dr Martin Broadstock, Programme Manager for Vaccines at UKRI’s Medical Research Council (MRC), examines the issues. [...]

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The Mary Lyon Centre: Advancing mouse genetics towards human disease

4 Sep 2020

It is over a century since scientists started exploring genetic diseases using mice and during that time, the laboratory mouse has become the mammal of choice for much of biological research. In 2019, UK laboratories alone used 2.5 million mice. Here, the Director of the Mary Lyon Centre and a mouse geneticist, Sara Wells, talks about the important work being done at the Centre for advancing mouse genetics towards human disease.

Image credit: The Mary Lyon Centre

The biological similarities between mouse and man are obvious, we have many of the same organ systems and share the majority of our genes. However, there are some stark genetic and physiological differences between us and laboratory mice which have the potential to confound disease studies. The Mary Lyon Centre, an international resource for mouse genetics situated on the Harwell Campus, Oxfordshire, is striving to close the gap between human and mouse studies and develop improved methods for preclinical research requiring the use of genetically altered mice. [...]

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The MRC Millennium Medal: 20 years on

24 Aug 2020

This is the 20th Anniversary of the launch of the MRC Millennium Medal, awarded to an outstanding Medical Research Council (MRC) researcher who has demonstrated scientific excellence and impact. Here, Professor Fiona Watt, MRC Executive Chair, reflects on the last 20 years of MRC funded research.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of MRC’s mission to advance medical research and improve human health. I am proud that, for over a century, the MRC has been at the forefront of funding medical research and innovation. Our exceptional scientists and support staff have worked tirelessly to transform healthcare and change the way that the research community collaborates and innovates. [...]

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Working on the ward: investigating the risks of COVID-19 for ethnic minority healthcare workers

29 Jul 2020

Crucial evidence is now showing that after taking into account age and other sociodemographic factors, Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people are nearly twice as likely to die of COVID-19 than white people.

In an urgent response to this, UK Research and Innovation’s Medical Research Council is working with the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to funding a multimillion-pound investment into a number of immediate research projects to investigate COVID-19 and ethnicity.

One of these urgent projects already underway is UK-REACH (UK Research Study into Ethnicity And COVID-19 outcomes in Healthcare workers). Led by Dr Manish Pareek, UK-REACH will calculate the risk of contracting and dying from COVID-19 for ethnic minority healthcare workers, using existing data held by national healthcare organisations. We caught up with Dr Pareek and his team to find out more about the importance of this urgent research, what its main aims are – and what it’s been like working with COVID-19 on a daily basis. [...]

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Mapping the COVID-19 research landscape: How tracking medical research funding has accelerated in the pandemic

28 Jul 2020

Europe PubMed Central (EPMC) has launched a new online grant finder tool to include a global dataset of COVID-19 projects. This new tool takes data from the UK Collaborative for Development Research (UKCDR) and Global Research Collaboration For Infectious Disease Preparedness (GloPID-R) COVID-19 Research Project Tracker, the most comprehensive international open dataset of pandemic-related research projects. MRC Director of Strategic Evaluation and Impact, Dr Ian Viney MBE, highlights how the tracking of research projects has accelerated and become more globally-connected in the pandemic, to better support the rapid pace of worldwide discovery and clinical research.

The UKCDR and GloPID-R COVID-19 Research Project Tracker provides an open dataset and user friendly analysis of thousands of pandemic-related research projects funded since the start of 2020, covering work in 100 countries. [...]

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Helping MRC grant holders through a crisis

24 Jul 2020

MRC Head of Operations, Sarah Collinge, shares some of her experiences about how funders are developing new ways to try and help researchers, like the UKRI COVID-19 Grant Extension Allocation.

Recent months as MRC Head of Funding Operations have been unprecedented and busy, grappling with urgently awarding new funding to research the coronavirus pandemic, while also thinking how to help our existing grant holders through and back to some form of normality. All with a toddler to keep entertained! I imagine our grant holders have similarly never known a time like it and we certainly aren’t close to returning to our normal working lives.

Checking Test Tubes [...]

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