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Insight blog

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

The Mary Lyon Centre: Advancing mouse genetics towards human disease

4 Sep 2020

The Mary Lyon Centre: Advancing mouse genetics towards human disease

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.

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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An ambitious programme for advancing research into multiple long-term conditions (multimorbidity)

2 Jul 2020

Research into multiple long-term conditions, or multimorbidity, is a relatively new field and funders are actively working with various stakeholders to overcome the challenges as set out in the recently published cross-funder framework. The Strategic Priorities Fund (SPF) programme “Tackling multimorbidity at scale: Understanding disease clusters, determinants and biological pathways” is jointly funded by UK Research and Innovation – Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Department of Health and Social Care, through the National Institute for Health Research. After extensive round table discussions and workshops, this initiative was launched last year with the strategic objective to improve prevention, management and treatment of multimorbidity through building the UK’s capacity for transformative research in this area.

Research - tube [...]

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On the road: MRC regional meetings

6 Mar 2020

At least once a year, the MRC’s Council hits the road and heads to a different area of the UK to learn about MRC-funded research in the region. Council member Dr Roger Highfield explains the importance of MRC’s regional meetings, and shares his experience of the latest, held at the University of Manchester.

Decades ago, studies of Whitehall civil servants revealed that the lower you are in the social hierarchy, the higher your risk of illness and death. [...]

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