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Our successes

Partnering with industry

Discovery science is a key area of focus for the MRC; between 60 and 70 per cent of the MRC’s research portfolio is classified as discovery research. The MRC is committed to expediting the impact of discovery research by bringing it closer to users in industry and clinical medicine. In addition to the many researcher-generated discovery science programmes, focal areas of discovery research funded by the MRC include:

Partnering with industry: accelerating our progress of new knowledge through the translation pipeline to improve health interventions 

The Discovery for Medicine topics reflect the MRC’s strategic assessment of the opportunity to develop the necessary knowledge-base in these areas. The MRC’s commitment to funding discovery research, across the breadth and depth of the entire MRC portfolio, is continued through a focus within this sub-set of topics. The following case studies and quantitative data demonstrate the impact of the MRC’s strong track record in leading scientific discovery.

Why should academia partner with industry?

Partnerships between academia and industry are crucial to translating high quality discovery science into health gain. Encouraging and supporting collaboration with industry have therefore been an important part of the MRC’s research strategy over the long-term; around 10 per cent of MRC-funded research teams report productive interactions with the private sector.

The UK has a strong life science industry sector; as of 2015, the UK-based biopharmaceutical sector and service and supply chain employed 107,000 people in 1,948 companies and generated £39.7 billion turnover. As well as developing new medicines for many diseases, the pharmaceutical industry in the UK provides numerous other benefits to the British economy, including income, employment, expertise and major investment. Partnerships between academia and industry use these benefits to drive new knowledge and spur innovation.

In 2016, an MRC-funded study, which sought to identify the complementary relationship between publicly-funded medical research spend and private sector investment, estimated that an increase of £1 public research expenditure is associated with an additional £0.83–£1.07 of private sector R&D spend in the UK. This spillover effect implies a real annual rate of return (in terms of economic impact) to public biomedical and health research in the UK of 15–18 per cent. When combined with previous estimates of the health gain that results from public medical research in cancer and cardiovascular disease, the total rate of return generated from publicly funded biomedical and health research would be between 24–28 per cent.

Case studies

Study at MRC Unit The Gambia leads to WHO pre-qualification of pneumococcal vaccine

A 2017 analysis showed that the use of the pneumococcal vaccine PCV in The Gambia reduced x-ray proven pneumonia in children by 24%, and pneumococcal pneumonia by 63%. In 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) pre-qualified Pfizer’s new pneumococcal vaccine, based on the results of a study conducted by the MRC Unit The Gambia with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare of The Gambia. The WHO pre-qualification allows the vaccine to be used globally by United Nations agencies and countries worldwide that require WHO pre-qualification.

Read more about the pneumococcal vaccine

MRC spin out Bicycle Therapeutics announces partnership with AstraZeneca in £1bn deal

In 2016, Bicycle Therapeutics - a MRC spin out company - entered into a collaboration with AstraZeneca potentially worth £1bn. The collaboration will identify and develop novel peptides for the treatment of respiratory, cardiovascular and metabolic disease.

Read more about this success story