Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Experimental medicine

The aim of this programme is to support and fund experimental medical research in humans that will significantly increase the speed and efficiency by which medical discoveries are translated into healthcare.

Partners involved:
Medical Research Council (MRC)

The scope and what we're doing

Experimental medicine is a broad term. It refers to investigations undertaken in humans, relating where appropriate to model systems, to do either of the following:

  • identify mechanisms of pathophysiology or disease
  • demonstrate proof-of-concept evidence of the validity and importance of new discoveries or treatments.

Experimental medicine is a core element of our overarching clinical and translational research strategy and has been a strategic priority for MRC for several years. It can be defined to include a range in vitro, in vivo and clinical research. Projects using appropriate experimental medicine approaches can be considered across the breadth of MRC remit.

Advances in non-invasive techniques such as medical imaging, sensors and ex vivo analyses now allow us to approach the human as the ultimate experimental model for improving human health. Doing so has the potential to significantly increase the speed and efficiency by which medical discoveries are translated into healthcare.

Opportunities, support and resources available

Funding opportunities

The routes for funding from MRC depend on the study design, model system and career stage of the applicant:

  • experimental medicine panel – studies must involve experimental intervention/challenge in humans and test a focused, mechanistic hypothesis
  • research boards – experimental intervention or challenge in animals, biomarker discovery, characterisation or phenotyping work using human samples
  • fellowships
  • other strategic initiatives – for example, the Experimental Medicine Initiative to Explore new Therapies (MRC-GSK EMINENT).

The experimental medicine panel

MRC’s experimental medicine panel has been set up to provide dedicated and sustained support to drive our understanding of human disease pathogenesis and enable the development of new targeted treatments.

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

The panel has an annual budget of around £10 million and welcomes academically-led proposals in all disease areas. There is no limit to the amount of funding you can apply for or the length of your project.

Experimental medicine studies must involve an experimental intervention/challenge in humans and be designed to explore disease mechanisms.

The panel will not support activities including:

  • characterisation or phenotyping work aiming to elucidate disease aetiology – supported by the research boards
  • biomarker discovery – 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)
  • development of novel technologies without a clearly defined hypothesis-testing programme
  • high-throughput screening approaches to target validation
  • pre-clinical model development and validation – supported by the research boards
  • clinical efficacy trials – supported by the National Institute for Health Research efficacy and mechanism evaluation funding scheme.

We encourage potential applicants to contact the experimental medicine team to arrange a discussion with the programme manager around remit suitability before submitting an application.

Find out about the remit of the experimental medicine panel in the guidance for outline stage experimental medicine applicants.

MRC and NIHR work in collaboration to provide a spectrum of funding opportunities for clinical studies and trials. To support applicants planning a clinical study or trial, a guidance document has been prepared comparing the typical characteristics of projects supported by the Experimental Medicine Panel, DPFS, EME and HTA.

Research board experimental medicine applications

If your experimental medicine proposal does not fit the remit criteria for the experimental medicine panel, you may apply to the relevant research board. Research boards support experimental medicine approaches in the broadest sense including, but not limited to, the study of human cells, tissues, data, mechanisms and disease, for example in reverse translation to explore mechanisms in human samples or participants, well-justified model systems or data resources.

Find out more about application timelines.

Who to contact

Ask a question about the programme


Governance, management and panels

The Experimental medicine panel meets twice a year in June and December to assess applications and recommend awards for funding.

Find details of the current Experimental medicine panel membership.

Last updated: 20 January 2023

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.