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Insight blog

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

Mind the academic gender gap: How COVID-19 is skewing an already uneven playing field for female academics and what we can do collectively to respond

22 Feb 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has had negative impacts on many, including female academics and researchers. Here, Sarah Arrowsmith, Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Institute of Translational Medicine at the University of Liverpool, writes about her own struggles, as well as those of other women who are having to juggle being an academic and a parent during this pandemic.

In 2017, a recording of a Professor of South Korean politics went viral after his children famously gate-crashed his live BBC News TV interview. [...]

Continue reading: Mind the academic gender gap: How COVID-19 is skewing an already uneven playing field for female academics and what we can do collectively to respond

MRC Seminar Series: “Tracking viral mutations to understand SARS-CoV-2 epidemiology and evolution”

17 Feb 2021

Continuing the series with the first seminar of 2021, Claire Mooney, Strategic Stakeholder Engagement Manager for the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the organiser of the MRC Seminar Series, writes about the January seminar and the importance of understanding the spread of COVID-19 variants to overcome the pandemic.

Image credit: from the presentation slides by Dr James Shepherd, MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research

We’ve all experienced typos and the effects that they can have on the message we wanted to convey. Likewise, in December last year, some simple letter substitutions had major implications for the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, when changes were detected in the genetic code of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. [...]

Continue reading: MRC Seminar Series: “Tracking viral mutations to understand SARS-CoV-2 epidemiology and evolution”

UK landscape of prevention research

2 Feb 2021

A detailed analysis of the UK landscape of prevention research has been published by the Medical Research Council (MRC). Here, Professor Nick Wareham, Director of the MRC Epidemiology Unit, Cambridge and Chair of MRC’s Population Health Sciences Group (PHSG); and Dr Gavin Malloch, MRC Programme Manager for Public Health Partnerships, tell us more about why this is important and what they found.

After many years of steady improvements in population health, the past decade has seen a marked slowdown, so that the UK now has among the lowest annual improvements in life expectancy at birth compared to other OECD (The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries. [...]

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MRC Seminar Series: Treating brain damage after birth

6 Jan 2021

Here, Claire Mooney, Strategic Stakeholder Engagement Manager for the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the organiser of the MRC Seminar Series, writes about the November 2020 seminar and the research being done to prevent brain damage in babies caused by birth asphyxia.

The idea of cooling a baby below normal body temperature goes against all our natural instincts. However, in his efforts to prevent the consequences of severe oxygen starvation during birth (birth asphyxia), Professor David Edwards (Professor of Neonatology at MRC Centre for Neurodevelopmental Disorders) and his colleagues were among those who pioneered a technique that does exactly that. At the November edition of the MRC Seminar Series, he told us the fascinating story of the discovery and implementation of mild hypothermia treatment to prevent death and brain damage in babies after birth asphyxia. [...]

Continue reading: MRC Seminar Series: Treating brain damage after birth

MRC Seminar Series – NC3Rs: Pioneering better science

14 Dec 2020

Following our blog about the launch of the Medical Research Council (MRC) Seminar Series, Claire Mooney, Strategic Stakeholder Engagement Manager for MRC and the organiser of the series, writes about the October seminar and the projects working to improve animal welfare in research.

Picking up a lab mouse using a tube rather than by the tail causes less stress to the animal. When I heard this while attending the October instalment of the MRC Seminar series, I was struck by how potentially impactful such a simple measure could be in improving the welfare of the 2.5 million mice used annually for research in the UK. [...]

Continue reading: MRC Seminar Series – NC3Rs: Pioneering better science

Engaging and involving young people brings benefits to research studies

11 Dec 2020

Encouraging public and patient engagement and active involvement in research studies can have great benefits, especially in challenging areas. Here, Kate Sturgeon, Senior Research Nurse in the MRC Clinical Trials Unit at UCL, writes about how the Adolescents and Adults Living with Perinatal HIV (AALPHI) study did exactly this with young people living with HIV and its outcome.

The AALPHI study is one of only three cohort studies worldwide evaluating the impact of HIV on young people living with perinatal HIV (PHIV) that includes young people affected by HIV. [...]

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Introducing the MRC Investigators

8 Dec 2020

In this blog, Professor Fiona Watt, Executive Chair of the Medical Research Council (MRC), writes about the new title of “MRC Investigator” and its significance for Programme Leaders and Programme Leader Track Researchers.

I am delighted to share with you that we have recently bestowed the new title of “MRC Investigator” on Programme Leaders (PL) and Programme Leader Track (PLT) researchers at our Units and Intramural Institutes. These individuals are world-class scientists who are either strong leaders in their field already (PLs) or are making great strides towards that goal (PLTs). To support these researchers in advancing medical research, MRC provides core funding to the Intramural Institutes and University Units where they carry out their work. [...]

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MRC Seminar Series Launch: “Tracking the COVID-19 pandemic in real time”

3 Dec 2020

In September, we launched the Medical Research Council (MRC) Seminar Series, which takes place on the third Thursday of the month, to showcase health-related research from MRC investments and collaboration. Here, Claire Mooney, Strategic Stakeholder Engagement Manager for MRC and the organiser of the series, writes about what she took away from the inaugural event.

Over the last few months, we have all become very accustomed to looking at and interpreting graphs related to tracking the COVID-19 pandemic. [...]

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‘The longest week ever’: the story behind the latest COVID-19 vaccine success

26 Nov 2020

The new vaccine, ChAdOx-1 nCoV19, developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca has generated international headlines this week. This breakthrough was the result of both long and short-term funding support, from UK Research and Innovation councils with the Medical Research Council at the heart. Sarah Gilbert, Professor of Vaccinology at the Jenner Institute and lead scientist on the vaccine project, describes what the journey has been like so far.

Professor Sarah Gilbert. Credit: John Cairns

The story behind this week’s successful trial results started back in January when we first heard reports of a new respiratory disease emerging in China. [...]

Continue reading: ‘The longest week ever’: the story behind the latest COVID-19 vaccine success

Reflecting on the MRC Millennium Medal 2020 Nominations

25 Nov 2020

For the first time, the MRC Millennium Medal 2020 successfully opened for nominations to recognise outstanding MRC-funded researchers that demonstrate scientific excellence and impact across the research environment. Here, Dr Glenn Wells, Director of Strategy and Planning at the Medical Research Council (MRC), reflects on the high-quality nominations received for the Medal.

We are truly delighted by the number of exceptional nominations received for this year’s MRC Millennium Medal 2020. As the new Director of Strategy and Planning at the MRC, I was particularly inspired to see the diverse ways that MRC-funded researchers make a difference to people’s lives, ranging from advancing medical research to transforming the entire research landscape. [...]

Continue reading: Reflecting on the MRC Millennium Medal 2020 Nominations