Stories about the people, science and research of the Medical Research Council.
7 Jan 2013
2013 is the MRC Centenary year and we’ll be taking the opportunity, here on the blog and elsewhere, to celebrate past discoveries and look to the future of medical research. To kick things off, Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts reflects on 100 years of publicly funded medical research, and why we must play the ‘long game’.
When the Medical Research Council’s forerunner, the Medical Research Committee, was established in 1913 to combat tuberculosis, its members may have thought the disease would be conquered within a few years. Yet it wasn’t until the late 1940s that MRC researchers carried out the first randomised controlled trial of streptomycin, the first TB drug. And it was the 1960s before Professor Wallace Fox showed that drug treatment at home was just as effective as that in sanatoria, leading to their closure and huge savings for health services.
This example from the first half of the MRC’s existence illustrates just how long it can take for medical research to come to fruition and change people’s lives. But this long journey from the laboratory bench — or increasingly the computer screen — to a patient’s bedside isn’t consigned to the past. Today it takes around 15 years to develop a drug, and many fail along the way. [...]
Continue reading: The MRC at 100
27 Nov 2012
The box of ‘research goodies’ the surviving participants have been receiving (Copyright: CCACE)
Ian Deary, Director of the Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, is on the trail of a specific group of 76-year-olds. Here he tells us what’s so interesting about these people, and why a new MRC-administered study means they’re receiving an early Christmas parcel to help them provide extremely valuable information.
Back in 1947, Scottish researchers did something unusual. Instead of randomly selecting a group of children and testing them to get a picture of overall intelligence, they decided to test every child born in 1936. On the Wednesday 4 June 1947, more than 70,000 11-year-olds sat down to complete the Scottish Mental Survey.
But, as if that were not enough, the researchers also went one step further. They stayed in contact with the 1,208 children born on 1 February, April, June, August, October and December in 1936, visiting them at home and collecting information on their mental abilities, personality, home circumstances, health, education, occupations and interests almost yearly until they were 27. These people are known as the Six-Day Sample, or ‘Scotland in Miniature’. [...]
Continue reading: Seeking out the Six-Day Sample
30 May 2012
George Davey Smith (Copyright: University of Bristol)
Professor George Davey Smith heads up not one but two MRC projects: he directs the Children of the 90s cohort study and the MRC Centre for Causal Analyses in Translational Epidemiology (MRC CAiTE) in Bristol. His career has taken him from Wales to Nicaragua, and India to Glasgow. Katherine Nightingale met George to find out about his itinerant career, cycling and a life without admin.
George Davey Smith was away on unauthorised holiday cycling around Ireland when his counterparts at Cambridge medical school were taught about epidemiology.
Returning the day before the epidemiology module test, he received some limited instruction from friends in the pub, and then did better in the epidemiology test than in other parts of the course. “I realised this was something for me,” he says. [...]
Continue reading: Profile: George Davey Smith