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UKRI and NIHR move to new phase of COVID-19 research funding

15 Jun 2020

The NIHR/UKRI COVID-19 rapid response initiative was established in February to address urgent needs in the face of the growing pandemic. 

Our review panels, ably supported by NIHR and MRC staff, have worked tirelessly to assess proposals quickly, recognising the pressing need for this research. As we move through the first wave of the outbreak, the nature of the questions that need to be addressed, the proof of concept data available and the need to link with existing activity are changing. In addition, in order to better understand and assess the impacts of this new disease, funding for longer than 12 months is desirable.

To meet the needs of this new environment, the NIHR/UKRI rolling call will close to new applications on 30 June 2020. The NIHR has launched a new ‘Recovery and Learning’ call to better understand and manage the health and social care consequences of the global COVID-19 pandemic beyond the acute phase, with outcomes typically expected within 24 months. The MRC will focus on COVID-19 mechanisms and interventions, and ESRC will continue to accept social science led proposals on health and social care that do not fit with the NIHR call scope. MRC and ESRC applications should be submitted to the UKRI rolling call – the duration of individual grants available under this scheme is up to 18 months.

The NIHR and UKRI will continue to work closely together to monitor progress and disseminate learnings from our shared portfolio, and to consider applications that span our respective remits.

We thank the research community for rising to the on-going challenge posed by COVID-19. We are proud of the research that we have funded through the NIHR/UKRI rapid response initiative. This now forms a portfolio of important studies which will help to address knowledge gaps in understanding, prevention and management of the COVID-19 pandemic. Key studies include:

  • ISARIC-4C- the world’s largest prospective COVID-19 clinical study
  • The two leading UK vaccine candidates from the University of Oxford and Imperial College London, which with our support are now both in clinical trials
  • The RECOVERY trial - an adaptive multi-arm randomised control trial that has recently provided preliminary results showing no effect on mortality from the use of hydroxychloroquine
  • Evaluation of public health measures, specifically the effectiveness and impacts of the 14 day self-isolation advice on mental health and wellbeing and testing of different messages to encourage people to follow public health advice
  • Awards made to investigate the association between black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups and COVID-19 incidence and adverse health outcomes.

We look forward to the outcomes of these and our other awards contributing to the understanding, diagnosis, prevention and management of COVID-19, and the results informing future clinical practice and public health.

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