Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Researching ME/CFS: highlight notice

Apply for funding to research myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome, also known as ME/CFS.

You can get the funding through any:

  • grants from MRC research boards
  • MRC fellowships

We would particularly welcome proposals within MRC remit that address 1 or more of the research areas identified by the ME/CFS Priority Setting Partnership for ME/CFS research:

  • post-exertional malaise
  • use of existing drugs for other conditions
  • diagnosis
  • autoimmunity
  • ME/CFS sub-types
  • post-infective cause
  • neurological symptomology
  • genetics
  • severe ME/CFS
  • mitochondrial dysfunction
  • oxygenation dysfunction

We will usually fund up to 80% of your project’s full economic cost.

Who can apply

You must meet the criteria for the specific funding opportunity you are applying to. Eligibility is normally based on your suitability to lead or work on a research proposal and the research organisation or business where the work is intended to take place.

Check if you’re eligible for funding.

To get advice on suitable funding opportunities, contact

What we're looking for

Building our portfolio of ME/CFS research has been a high priority for MRC for a number of years. This highlight notice, which has been in place since 2003, seeks to encourage high-quality funding applications to any of our research board grant or fellowship opportunities.

MRC research strategy and funding history for ME/CFS.

Research areas

In 2022, MRC co-funded an ME/CFS Priority Setting Partnership to identify the top 10+ ME/CFS research priorities. The partnership was led by people with ME/CFS, their carers and clinicians, and facilitated by non-profit making initiative, the James Lind Alliance.

We would particularly welcome proposals within MRC remit, that address 1 or more of the research areas identified by the ME/CFS Priority Setting Partnership:

  • what is the biological mechanism that causes post-exertional malaise (symptoms caused or made worse by physical, mental or emotional effort, which can be delayed) in people with ME/CFS? How is this best treated and managed?
  • which existing drugs used to treat other conditions might be useful for treating ME/CFS, such as low dose naltrexone, or drugs used to treat postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome?
  • how can an accurate and reliable diagnostic test be developed for ME/CFS?
  • is ME/CFS caused by a faulty immune system? Is ME/CFS an autoimmune condition?
  • are there different types of ME/CFS linked to different causes and how severe it becomes? Do different types of ME/CFS need different treatments or have different chances of recovery?
  • why do some people develop ME/CFS following an infection? Is there a link with long-COVID?
  • what causes the central and peripheral nervous systems (brain, spinal cord and nerves in the body) to malfunction in people with ME/CFS? Could this understanding lead to new treatments?
  • is there a genetic link to ME/CFS? If yes, how does this affect the risk of ME/CFS in families? Could this lead to new treatments?
  • what causes ME/CFS to become severe?
  • how are mitochondria, responsible for the body’s energy production affected in ME/CFS? Could this understanding lead to new treatments?
  • does poor delivery or use of oxygen within the body cause ME/CFS symptoms? If so, how is this best treated?

Multidisciplinary teams and partnerships

Research proposals should consider how to:

  • increase capacity in ME/CFS research
  • address the need for multidisciplinary teams to tackle the significant research challenges in this area
  • involve persons living with ME/CFS in developing ME/CFS research proposals

MRC will usually fund costs for a wide range of research team members (for example, principal investigator, co-investigator, postdocs, technicians, statisticians, technologists, methodologists etc.), to support capacity building and team science across career stages and pathways.

Research proposals may involve partnerships between ME/CFS researchers and established, leading investigators working in relevant areas, but who are new to the ME/CFS field. MRC will usually fund costs toward international research partners if they provide expertise not available in the UK.

MRC encourages (but does not require) applicants to work in partnership with other funders where appropriate. Depending on the project, applicants may wish to seek cash or in-kind support from charitable or industrial partners.

Please see the MRC guidance for applicants for full details on what can be included in your application.

Research proposals should consider including appropriate public and patient involvement and engagement, including (but not limited to) consultation and engagement with persons with ME/CFS and/or their representatives at all stages of project development. Please see public engagement for more information.

How to apply

MRC has a wide array of funding options available to support biomedical researchers and innovators, whatever their career stage. Find out about funding for biomedical research and innovation.

If you are considering submitting an application, please first contact who can advise you on suitable funding opportunities.

You can search the UKRI funding finder against the following MRC schemes where the ME/CFS highlight notice is relevant:

  • project, programme, partnership and new investigator research grants from MRC research boards:
    • population and systems medicine
    • molecular and cellular medicine
    • infections and immunity
    • neurosciences and mental health
  • MRC fellowships:
    • career development awards
    • senior non-clinical fellowship
    • clinician scientist fellowships
    • senior clinical fellowship
    • MRC and National Institute for Health Research clinical academic research partnerships
    • clinical research training fellowships

You should apply directly through the existing funding opportunity that is most relevant to your science area and career stage.

How we will assess your application

All applications received under this highlight notice will be assessed by the relevant MRC research board or panel through MRC’s standard assessment procedure. For more information on MRC’s peer review process, please see carrying out a peer review.

Building our portfolio of ME/CFS research has been a high priority for MRC for a number of years. To help encourage high-quality research applications in this area, applications submitted under the ME/CFS highlight notice will receive prioritisation for funding against other applications attaining the same median ranking score (in the score category in which not all the applications can be supported, given the available budget).

The funding decision making process is as follows:

At triage or shortlisting:

  • in the initial evaluation of an application, only the intrinsic research quality of the submission, as determined using the MRC’s assessment criteria, will be considered

At funding meetings:

  • all applications under review are ranked by their median score
  • given the available budget, a cumulative commitment line is drawn, starting with the highest median score, to determine which grants can be funded
  • where the available budget can fund some, but not all of the applications which have the same median score, the funding board or panel members determine which applications should be supported, taking into account quality, likely impact and fit to MRC’s strategic priorities and highlight notices

Contact details

Get help with developing your proposal

For help and advice on costings and writing your proposal please contact your research office in the first instance, allowing sufficient time for your organisation’s submission process.

Ask about this funding opportunity


Get help with applying through Je-S



01793 444164

Opening times

Je-S helpdesk opening times

Additional info

In 2020, MRC and the National Institute for Health Research jointly funded the £3.2 million DecodeME study, which is the world’s largest genome-wide association study of ME/CFS.

DecodeME aims to identify genetic differences that may indicate underlying causes or increased risk of developing the condition.

MRC research strategy and funding history for ME/CFS

MRC is not able to broker new research partnerships on the part of applicants as we do not have the resources to do this.

The Researcher Toolkit is an output of the UK Clinical Research Collaborative ME/CFS Research Working Group that provides an overview of:

  • UK government research funding opportunities
  • guides to embedding patient and public involvement
  • resources on developing high quality proposals


  • 18 July 2023
    'Contact details' section updated.

This is the website for UKRI: our seven research councils, Research England and Innovate UK. Let us know if you have feedback or would like to help improve our online products and services.