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Capital for tissue banks – what we want from charities

Last month we invited applications for a £5-million pot of capital investment to partner with charities to establish or enhance human tissue banks and linked data. Katherine Nightingale spoke to MRC Programme Manager Dr David Crosby about the role of charities in tissue banking and what we’re looking for from charity partners.

Why do we need tissue banks?

Tissue banking is a really important area for research. If you want to understand the mechanisms of human disease and identify appropriate targets for new treatments, then tissue from patients with a particular disease is a fantastic resource. You can study the disease processes in cellular form, screen therapies, develop diagnostics and validate what you’ve learned from other research such as animal studies.

A rack of tissue samples

A rack of tissue samples (Image: UCL)

What’s the purpose of this investment?

Tissue banking isn’t cheap and it’s logistically complex. We’re making a one-off investment to fund tissue bank infrastructure. This includes the people, equipment and facilities required to collect, characterise, curate and store the tissue and its associated data, and make it accessible to the research community.

The awards will concentrate on areas of existing strength either in tissue banking or in important lines of research that can benefit from tissue banking.

Applicants will need to describe how a proposed tissue bank will catalyse new science through new tissue banking and data linkage approaches. Read more

Preprints – what’s in it for me?

A preprint is a scientific manuscript uploaded by authors to an open access, public server before formal peer review. With the rising popularity of preprint servers enabling fast and direct distribution of knowledge across the world, and plans underway to establish a ‘Central Service for Preprints’, Isabel Baker asked some converts across the MRC community why they’ve jumped on board.

Dr Nikolaus Kriegeskorte, Programme Leader, Memory and Perception group, MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit

“Preprint posting is the right thing to do for science and society. It enables us to share our results earlier, speeding up the pace of science. It also enablesDr Nikolaus Kriegeskorte us to catch errors earlier, minimising the risk of alerting the world to our findings (through a high-impact publication) before the science is solid.

“Importantly, preprints ensure long-term, open access to our results for scientists and for the public. Preprints can be rapidly posted for free on arXiv and bioRxiv, enabling instant open access. We post every paper as a preprint in my lab, at the time of the first submission to a journal.”

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The lab notes and doodles of Rosa Beddington

Last year we brought you the news that MRC scientist Dr Rosa Beddington’s papers were to become the first collection of personal papers from a female Fellow archived by the Royal Society. As we celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science tomorrow, the Royal Society’s Laura Outterside delves deeper into the archive, which is now available for viewing at the Royal Society in London.

Rosa Beddington

Rosa Beddington


Beddington was one of the most skilled and influential mammalian experimental embryologists of her generation, and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1999. The collection comprises the contents of Beddington’s office at Mill Hill, where she was Head of the Division of Mammalian Development at the MRC’s National Institute for Medical Research.

Her archive strikes a balance between the personal and professional. You’ll find photographs of Beddington, her old passport (reference number BED/1/1), and her undergraduate notebooks (reference number BED/1/4), including brief forays into diary keeping. And you’ll find ample evidence of Beddington’s surgical and experimental skills, reflected through a series of lab books (reference number BED/2/1) and microscope slides of mouse embryos (reference number BED/5/1). Read more