Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Experimental medicine grants: Dec 2020

You can apply for funding through the Medical Research Council’s Experimental Medicine Panel.

Up to £10 million a year is available for research into the causes, progression and treatment of human disease through experimental intervention in humans. Your proposal can focus on any disease.

You must be based at an eligible organisation.

There is no limit to the amount of funding you can apply for or the length of your project. We generally fund 80% of the full economic cost. Your research organisation must fund the remaining 20%.

This is an ongoing scheme with awards made every six months.

Who can apply

You should be based at an eligible research organisation, which includes:

  • higher education institutions
  • UKRI-approved independent research organisations or NHS bodies
  • government-funded organisations
  • MRC institutes
  • MRC units and partnership institutes
  • institutes and units funded by other research councils.

Our general guidance for applicants contains more details on institutional and individual eligibility.

Investigators in receipt of fellowships (MRC, NIHR, charity, learned societies) and NIHR lectureships are eligible (if their fellowship terms and conditions allow).

What we're looking for

You can apply for academically-led experimental medicine projects, conducted in humans, based around a clearly articulated gap in understanding of human pathophysiology, with a clear path to clinical impact.

These grants will produce new mechanistic insights, identifying opportunities to modify disease pathways and enabling novel therapeutic or diagnostic approaches for future development.

All disease areas and interventions are welcomed by the panel.

The application must involve an experimental intervention or challenge in humans, perturbing the system to explore disease mechanism.

The challenge may be, but is not limited to:

  • pharmacological
  • immunological
  • physiological
  • psychological
  • infectious.

The following types of proposals are eligible for support:

  • the use of novel readouts or technologies especially related to early evaluation of clinical efficacy
  • the use of drugs, other interventions or measures with established safety profiles in new settings or conditions, for example repurposing drugs as tool compounds to probe disease mechanism
  • deep characterisation or phenotyping of subjects using samples from clinical studies may be included where there is a clear link to a current treatment strategy but should not be the sole focus of the proposal
    • acceptable approaches include the identification and verification of responder patient populations (precision medicine strategies).

Proposals which are predominantly descriptive will not be shortlisted. An experimental approach, and a clear plan for establishing causal relationships and mechanisms, is expected.

The following activities are ineligible for support:

  • characterisation or phenotyping work aiming to elucidate disease aetiology (supported by the research boards)
  • experimental intervention or challenge in animals, using clinical assets to explore disease mechanisms and pathways (supported by the research boards)
  • development and evaluation of novel therapeutics, diagnostics or devices (supported by the developmental pathway funding scheme (DPFS))
  • high-throughput screening approaches to target validation
  • pre-clinical model development and validation (supported by the research boards)
  • clinical efficacy trials (supported by the EME funding scheme).

There is no limit to the amount of funding you can apply for or the length of your project. You should instead justify the timescale and resources needed in the context of the proposed work.


Applications including partnerships with charities or industry are encouraged where these add value to the project, for example, in terms of access to expertise, technologies, reagents or funding. Please note that industrial collaboration is not a prerequisite for application.

Applications involving collaboration with industry should adhere to the MRC Industry Collaboration Agreement guidance. The lead applicant must be the academic partner, and the project must be academically-led.

Please note that we do not fund the work of your industrial partners.

How to apply

You must first submit an outline proposal via the Joint Electronic Submission system (Je-S).

The opportunity is open for five weeks leading up to the deadline. The next deadline for outline applications will be in April 2021.

When applying select:

  • Council: MRC
  • Document type: Outline Proposal
  • Scheme: Standard Outline
  • Call/type/mode: Experimental Medicine Out Dec 2020.

You must use our outline proposal form (Word, 271KB) for your Je-S application.

Please read our guidance for outline stage applicants before applying.

If successful at the outline stage, you will be invited to submit a full application. We will send guidance on completing a full application.

We aim to complete the process from outline submission to full decision in approximately 30 weeks.

How we will assess your application

Your application will be assessed in a two-stage process. Your outline proposal will first be considered by an independent panel of experts (PDF, 61KB).

The panel will assess your proposal on the following criteria:

  • fit to the call remit
  • scientific rationale and potential impact
  • research strategy and experimental design
  • deliverability of the project.

If successful, you will be invited to submit a full proposal. This undergoes external peer review before a further and more detailed review by the panel.

All applicants will receive feedback from the assessment process within eight weeks of the panel meeting.

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