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Announcing the new Experimental Medicine Panel

by Guest Author on 28 Jul 2020

At the end of 2019, Clinical Director, Professor Patrick Chinnery, shared the MRC’s plan to establish the Precision Medicine Accelerator, a new framework for clinical translational research funding. Here, Patrick updates us on the new Experimental Medicine Panel, the first stage in realising this vision.

Medical technology

The recent MRC Translational Research 10-year Evaluation highlighted the MRC’s role in establishing and evolving the UK’s translation landscape, often in partnership with others including the NIHR. The MRC plans to build on previous successes and continue to provide support in this challenging research space. We are therefore pleased to announce a new Experimental Medicine Panel, which will meet regularly to enhance the MRC’s current translational offering.

Professor Patrick Chinnery

Professor Patrick Chinnery

Experimental medicine refers to investigations undertaken in humans that involve experimental interventions and aim to advance our understanding of mechanisms of disease. Often this work provides proof-of-concept evidence that is the first step in discovering new disease treatments.

The last decade has seen major advances in our ability to study humans using a range of non-invasive techniques including medical imaging, sensors, and ex vivo analyses. These allow us to study mechanisms in humans with unprecedented precision and sensitivity, instead of using model systems which all have their drawbacks, ultimately speeding up translation from discovery science into healthcare benefits.

Sustained Support

Through this new funding call, with an annual budget of >£10 million, the Experimental Medicine Panel will provide the dedicated and sustained support needed to drive our understanding of disease pathogenesis and enable the development of new targeted treatments. The Experimental Medicine Panel will enable innovative partnerships between discovery scientists and clinicians across academia and industry. In doing so, fostering positive change in the UK research culture and ultimately leading to patient benefits, complementing research we fund through the traditional MRC funding boards.

Our commitment to experimental medicine will not only expand the scale and scope of the MRC translation funding portfolio, but also enhance target validation work and encourage bilateral links between discovery science and translational development. These areas were highlighted in the MRC Translational Research Evaluation as key opportunities where regular and increased investment could yield significant impact on the UK’s translational research landscape.

Hypothesis-driven

The Panel will support ambitious, academically-led applications of varying sizes focused on hypothesis-led interventional human studies. Some examples include: studies aiming to explore the origin and development of disease; to identify predictors of how a patient will respond to therapy; generate data for confirming potential therapeutic targets; and establish new human models for studying human infectious disease.

The first call is now open, and after a two-stage application process, the first awards will be made in March 2021. For the first funding round, the Experimental Medicine Panel welcomes, but is not limited to, projects furthering the long-term understanding of COVID-19 pathophysiology. This could involve experimental work in healthy humans that aims to understand a disease mechanism relevant for COVID-19.

For more information on the call remit and application process, please visit the Experimental Medicine funding call page.

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