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Insight blog

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

Superbugs vs Superheroes: Getting creative with antimicrobial resistance

10 May 2018

Last month, our researchers channelled their creativity into a one-off UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Superheroes vs Superbugs night at the Science Museum in London. Over 1,000 people came to meet some of the superheroes taking on the fight against the global threat of antimicrobial resistance. Petra Kiviniemi reports.

Antibiotics underpin nearly every aspect of modern medicine, but ever-increasing numbers of pathogens are becoming resistant to our arsenal of drugs. So now researchers are working harder than ever to discover new ways to prevent and treat drug-resistant infections.

Scientists transported guests into the hidden world of bacteria, using virtual reality to shrink them down to the size of bacterial proteins.

Scientists transported guests into the hidden world of bacteria, using virtual reality to shrink them down to the size of bacterial proteins.

The Science Museum currently plays host to Superbugs: The Fight for our lives. It’s an exhibition for anyone to visit and learn about the causes, consequences, and possible solutions for the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). [...]

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Helping you share your clinical trials data

2 May 2018

Rachel Knowles

Rachel Knowles

Clinical trials take a lot of time, money and effort – for everyone involved. So it makes sense to make the most of the data collected. We’ve launched two new initiatives to make it easier for researchers to share their clinical trials data. MRC Programme Manager, Rachel Knowles, explains how you can make use of them to benefit your research.

Clinical trials generate many rich and diverse datasets. By sharing these beyond the original research team, you maximise the value of these data and give other researchers opportunities to use them for new discoveries and collaborations. [...]

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A scientific meeting of minds

25 Apr 2018

Academic conferences present researchers with a fantastic opportunity to share their work, gain feedback, and spark new collaborations. But to attend most conferences you must submit an abstract of completed work, months in advance. What if you’re just getting started? Roni Tibon, together with Rik Henson and other members of the MRC CBU Open Science Committee, raised the issue in a recent article published in Trends in Cognitive Sciences. Here Roni guides us through the problem, and what they see as the solution.

Roni TibonA call for abstract submissions opens for a great conference in July. The deadline is early January.  Many of your colleagues are going and it’ll be a wonderful opportunity to get input on your work and learn about other peoples’ research.

But as you check the submission guidelines, you realise that the conference organisers ask for abstracts to include results and conclusions, and you can’t provide any conclusions. Maybe you’re still collecting data, considering your design or haven’t started running your experiment yet. [...]

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GDPR: What researchers need to know

16 Apr 2018

The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and new Data Protection Act come into force on 25 May. Both apply in the UK and will influence research involving personal data. So what’s changing and how should you, as a researcher, prepare? Sarah Dickson, Head of the MRC Regulatory Support Centre, is here to help.

What is GDPR?

The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), along with the new UK Data Protection Act, will govern the processing (holding or using) of personal data in the UK.

Although the new regulations haven’t been designed specifically for research, we’ll need to make some changes to research practice. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is the UK regulator. The Health Research Authority (HRA), in collaboration, is providing official guidance for people working in health and social care research. We‘re working with both organisations. [...]

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Nutrition research: taking a broader view

12 Apr 2018

The UK Nutrition Research Partnership for health and disease aims to take nutrition research to the next level by building up a strong research base. On the day of the first partnership meeting, Chair Professor Sir Stephen O’Rahilly, Director of the MRC Metabolic Diseases Unit at the University of Cambridge, explains why nutrition matters to you and your research area.

Image credit: University of Cambridge

The food we eat has a huge impact on our bodies. One of the key conclusions of last year’s review of nutrition and human health research in the UK was that we need to gain a deeper insight into how changes in diet affect our health.

We also need more accurate information about how we might better use nutrition to prevent and treat certain important diseases. The UK Nutrition Research Partnership is focused on strengthening the UK science base in basic and translational nutritional research. [...]

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How research can give patients a voice

4 Apr 2018

Eilean MacDonald

Eilean MacDonald was diagnosed with childhood arthritis when she was only a baby. 18 years on, as well as dealing with normal teenage life and managing her condition, she’s helping MRC researchers on a stratified medicine study to pick the right treatment, first time, for future patients.   

It all started when I was 18 months old and I bumped my knee. My parents noticed that the swelling wouldn’t go down, and took me to our local hospital. They ran tests but the doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong, so I was referred to the rheumatology department at Alder Hey children’s hospital, where I was diagnosed with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA). [...]

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Medical research has a bright future

27 Mar 2018

After nearly eight years at the helm of the MRC as Chief Executive, Professor Sir John Savill steps down at the end of March, just before UK Research and Innovation comes into being on 1 April. Here he reflects on how he’s translated his priorities into research investments which will strengthen the UK research ecosystem for the future.

At the end of this week I will have completed an eventful seven and a half years as CEO of the MRC. Thanks to wonderful support from across the MRC’s extended family, much has been achieved for medical research. [...]

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Pushing dementia research forward through US-UK collaboration

22 Mar 2018

For MRC grants that involve collaborations, almost half (43%) are international. We’re running a symposium in Washington D.C to encourage more of this, by joining up UK early career researchers and National Institutes of Health (NIH) researchers working in neurodegeneration. But what’s the international incentive? Three researchers with MRC-NIH Partnership Awards share how they hope to benefit.

Dr Chi-Hun Kim, Dementias Platform UK, University of Oxford

Dr Chi-Hun Kim

Dr Chi-Hun Kim

The UK and US each have rich data sources for dementia research. But there aren’t any efficient UK-US data access channels which make it easier for researchers in the two countries to collaborate.

I plan to use the Dementias Platform UK (DPUK) Data Portal as a channel for more efficient and long-standing collaboration. The portal is a secure one-stop website where researchers can upload their data and analyse it for free. By using this robust MRC-funded facility, I’ll conduct a study using data from both sides of the Atlantic. I’m aiming to get a better picture of how conditions that block or reduce blood flow to the brain might affect the development of dementia.

DPUK and I have been helping South Korea make a similar facility to help with international collaboration. My experiences from the MRC-Korea collaboration will set me up well for this exciting new collaboration.  [...]

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Lessons on how to foster interdisciplinary research

15 Mar 2018

As one of the first cross-council interdisciplinary initiatives, The Environmental and Social Ecology of Human Infectious Diseases Initiative (ESEI)* was developed to respond proactively to the global problem of potential pandemic, epidemic and emerging infectious diseases. Five years on, MRC Programme Manager Morven Roberts shares lessons learnt from the initiative about how to foster future waves of interdisciplinary research.

In the last five years, the Ebola, Zika and yellow fever outbreaks – as well as the critical challenge presented by antimicrobial resistance – have provided continued impetus for research to understand the drivers of emerging or re-emerging infections. [...]

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Celebrating women in science

8 Mar 2018

By supporting schemes like Athena SWAN and the WISE campaign we’re committed to advancing women’s careers in STEM. For International Women’s Day 2018, Deborah Barber shares quotes and career insights from some of the many inspiring women in research who we’ve featured on the blog over the past year.

Professor Janet Darbyshire

Professor Janet Darbyshire

“The hospitals used to be completely full of patients with HIV/AIDS, but now things are very, very different.”

Janet is the recent recipient of our most prestigious award, the MRC Millennium Medal. Her research into clinical trials and epidemiology has prevented disease and saved lives around the world. Janet provides an insight into her successful career, from her earliest memories of medicine to the difference her research has made to people’s lives. [...]

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