The MRC is investing more than £20 million over five years in a major new National Mouse Genetics Network for disease modelling, to accelerate our understanding of human disease.
This will also improve diagnosis and treatments, through driving integration of mouse genetics, cell and tissue systems and deep phenotyping with human or clinical genomics and pathology.
The network will bring together a package of approximately four to six distinctive challenge-led research clusters. These will be funded for five years in the first instance, across the UK and in long-term partnership with the MLC at Harwell.
Research cluster leaders should show that they will direct the proposed research and be actively engaged in carrying it through. Cluster proposals should seek to bring together the right people and expertise to deliver a cluster challenge.
The expectation is that most research clusters will be multi-partner or institute collaborations, reaching across key centres of excellence (not necessarily geographically close to each other).
All clusters will be expected to form a partnership with the MLC, directed by Dr Sara Wells and sited within the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus. Preliminary discussions for potential partnerships, ahead of submitting an EOI, are welcome.
Clusters are intended to be outward facing across the network and other clusters, considering what they might offer to the wider community (for example, areas to consider might be technology, bioinformatics, training etc).
As appropriate to the challenge, we encourage collaboration across sectors or stakeholders including clinical, academia, industry (for example, pharmaceutical, biomedical, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) etc) and other partners.
You can also include international partners, if they provide expertise that is not available in the UK.
For further information on the network and clusters, see the ‘Additional information’ section.
Each cluster investment should drive innovative approaches to addressing a research challenge, which could be disease, technology or concept-led. Delivering these through integrating and strengthening links between mouse models and human or clinical genetics, and that add value to the existing portfolio in mouse genetics research.
Challenges could be novel or existing, including those that have thus far been difficult (if not impossible) to address through standard funding routes and research organisation investments.
The clear intention is that this new network investment, and the strong interactivity with the MRC Harwell’s MLC, should better facilitate addressing such challenges. Also forging and underpinning new models, ways of working and added value for the network and beyond.
In turn, the success of individual clusters will be measured by their ability to deliver added value and impact to the network.
Network funding is not intended to reduce or replace existing funding routes for mouse genetics research. In the case of MRC funding, the majority of which should continue through competitive awards, such as research and programme grants delivered via MRC boards and panels.
Expressions of interest
The call is being delivered through a two-step process (see also ‘How to apply’):
- EOI gating stage
- invitation for full proposals in spring 2021.
The EOI stage is intended to be flexible and inclusive to encourage new ways of working in human or clinically-relevant mouse genetics research, bringing together the necessary expertise to address innovative challenge-led research proposals. EOIs can be from either:
- research cluster leaders – intending to lead one of the approximately four to six research clusters forming this network
- associate members – offering relevant expertise to a cluster(s), or the broader network.
Leading a research cluster
EOIs from applicants to lead a research cluster should:
- articulate high-quality, innovative research challenges that can be disease, technology or concept-driven
- identify the proposed cluster leader and partners (focusing on the core contributors) to provide a persuasive package of expertise that will drive these ideas to form a strong, viable and sustainable research cluster. It is anticipated that this will normally require multiple research organisations to combine relevant expertise in mouse, human and complementary research
- as appropriate to the challenge, identify wider membership, including novel partners (scientific, industry, clinical etc) and stakeholders that could contribute to, and benefit from, the cluster within the network.
EOIs will not request details on resource, however, applicants should provide a high-level overview of potential types of needs to support proposed challenges. Also, to help inform plans for deployment of resources from the overall investment at the full proposal stage.
Example ways in which funding could be deployed, include:
- national coordination work
- mouse model development (including generation of new mouse strains, novel challenge paradigms and preclinical phenotyping)
- creating and sharing resources (models, methods, tools, technologies, data)
- pilot work to catalyse further support
- adding value to existing work
- additional training, career development and team science.
Joining up cluster proposals
The EOI stage will serve as a key ‘gating’ point ahead of the full proposal stage, to ensure the network achieves impact and provides the optimal coverage (and avoids duplication) and focus to support the wider research community.
Research cluster leader applicants selected through the EOI stage will thus be encouraged to take stock of the ideas within the shortlisted bids and make partnerships or connections where appropriate, potentially leading to evolution of the original submissions.
If your EOI is successfully invited to the full proposal stage, you will be asked to attend a pre-submission workshop in April 2021.
This will be with all participants to have access to summaries of the EOIs (sections 1, 2 and 3.1 in the Research Cluster Leader EOI form) selected at this first stage. Participants will also have access to a list of the EOIs submitted for consideration of associated membership.
We will also publish details of the principle investigator (cluster leader) and the proposal title and summary outlined in your EOI (sections 1.1, 1.2 and 2.1 in the Research Cluster Leader EOI form) following the workshop.
This is to provide a refined set of information to ensure the wider community has a view of the developments.
This activity will be guided by the MRC’s expert review panel (see also ‘How we will assess your application’).
We will require applicants to identify who should be the published contact point, in case of further interested partners.
We recognise that some researchers may wish to engage without directly leading clusters.
‘Associate member’ EOIs are thus also encouraged from groups or individuals who are primarily seeking to offer key expertise. These could be valuable to specific clusters, or to the overall network, and in turn gain benefits once the network and clusters are operational.
As described above, successful research cluster leaders at the EOI stage will be invited to attend a pre-submission workshop in April 2021.
As well as access to summaries of each of their EOIs, all participants will have access to a list of the EOIs submitted for consideration of associated membership.