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Posts from the ‘Q&As’ Category

Q&A: The ins and outs of the Clinical Research Capabilities and Technologies Initiative

MRI scan of a human head

An MRI scan of a human head (Image credit: Wikipedia/everyone’s idle)

Today Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced the recipients of our Clinical Research Capabilities and Technologies Initiative, with 23 projects receiving a total of just over £170m. But what exactly are these ‘capabilities’, what do we hope to achieve, and where did all that money come from? Katherine Nightingale takes a closer look.

What do we mean by clinical research capabilities?

It’s about new technologies for clinical research. We’re all familiar with the idea of clinical research being about clinical trials to assess drugs, devices and diagnostics in people. Clinical research is often seen as the end of the ‘pipeline’ from making discoveries in the laboratory to helping patients, but that’s not the whole story.

We want to make clinical research in the UK also about studying disease at the molecular, cellular, organ and whole-body level ― and to do that researchers need new tools. This includes better body-imaging equipment, new technology for monitoring physiology, and ways of analysing the intricacies of disease in cells and tissues. Doing this needs big pieces of kit, as well as resources for building on the equipment in the future and using it in new ways.

Discoveries made in this way might then be fed back ‘into the lab’ or go on to influence further clinical research. The aim is that by funding these technologies, we’ll build on existing infrastructure, and speed up innovation by allowing researchers to explore new areas. Read more

Q&A: What it takes to be on an MRC board

Moira Whyte

Moira Whyte (Image: Academy of Medical Sciences)

It’s that time of year when we open up applications for new members of our boards and panels. Here Professor Moira Whyte, Head of Respiratory Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, talks to Katherine Nightingale about her experience being a member of an MRC board ― and the benefits it can have to researchers.

What has your involvement with MRC boards been?

I’ve been a member of Population and Systems Medicine Board (PSMB) for four years and I was Deputy Chair of the panel making decisions about the MRC-NIHR Efficacy and Mechanisms Evaluation Programme for five. Both of those commitments ended this year. As well as this, I’ve been involved in other activities such as evaluating stratified medicine funding calls.

How has being a board member affected your day-to-day work?

The obvious commitment is preparing for and attending the board meetings, which are held three times a year for PSMB. There is also a preliminary stage to each meeting where you read grant applications and comment on them online as part of the triage system. Some of these will be preliminary applications for large grants that the board helps shape, and others will be more standard grant applications.

The number of applications you read can vary, but it takes about a day to do the preliminary reading and then probably another day to prepare for the board meeting. Read more

Q&A: Sharing your research with parliamentarians

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Medical Research, which the MRC supports, brought parliamentarians and scientists together for an event in Parliament House on June 16. MRC-funded researcher Professor Ian McKeith, Professor of Old Age and Psychiatry at Newcastle University’s Institute for Ageing and Health, showcased his work at the event.

Jane Bunce spoke to him about his experience of sharing his work developing the world’s first accurate diagnostic test for dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), the second most common type of dementia. His research is featured in a booklet produced for the event.

Prof Ian McKeith at the event with a representative from GE Healthcare*

Prof Ian McKeith at the event with a representative from GE Healthcare (Image copyright: Wellcome Trust)

Why is it important to speak to parliamentarians?

It’s important to demonstrate to the people who are responsible for funding research that it makes a difference ― that it does actually have an effect on people’s lives and healthcare. It’s also to help them put a human face to the idea of medical research, as they may not have had much contact with scientists and it helps them understand what we do.

Parliamentarians are incredibly engaged with dementia at the moment, particularly due to the Prime Minister’s Challenge, so it’s an important time for the dementia research community to be making sure parliamentarians have the right information and giving feedback. We’ve been promised a doubling in research funding [Prime Minister David Cameron has said that he wants UK Government investment in dementia research to double from £66m in 2015 to £122m in 2025] so now we need to consolidate that, and make sure it goes to the right places. Read more