Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Molecular and cellular medicine

This board supports discovery of biological mechanisms or technologies relevant to human health and disease, including the causes of cancer and haematology.

Partners involved:
Medical Research Council (MRC)

The scope and what we're doing

The Molecular and Cellular Medicine Board (MCMB) is responsible for MRC’s investments that seeks to understand the molecular and cellular mechanisms underpinning complex biological function in human health and disease. It also supports the early translation of knowledge towards new diagnosis and treatment of cancer and haematological disorders as well as changes to policy and practice in this area.

The board has particular interest in understanding dynamic biological systems across space and time, the causal link between external exposures and human disease, and research maximising opportunities at the physical science interface.

Our science areas

MCMB supports investigator-led grants, strategic investments and partnerships relevant to human health and disease in the following science areas:

  • cell biology: understanding the fundamental properties, structure and function of the cell and how it responds to and influences its local environment
  • structural biology and biophysics: understanding the atomic organisation of molecules and macromolecular complexes and the dynamic, functional relationships between these components in cells and biological systems
  • genetics, genomics and epigenetics: including molecular genetics (mechanistic understanding of gene regulatory networks, DNA function, repair and damage, epigenetic systems and more) and functional genomics and genome variant impacts on human health and disease
  • developmental and stem cell biology (excluding neurobiology): understanding the mechanisms of development, differentiation, growth and regeneration at the molecular, genetic and cellular levels
  • regenerative medicine: mechanisms underpinning regenerative medicine. Research that focuses on particular organs or tissues, other than haematology and cancer, should be submitted to the relevant research board
  • molecular haematology: investigating mechanisms underpinning blood diseases at the molecular, genetic, cellular and systems levels, including causes and prognosis
  • the development and application of chemical, biological and physical tools to study and manipulate biological systems relevant to health and disease (for example, nanotechnology, engineering biology, chemical biology and gene or cell therapy).  The development or improvement of generalisable health and biomedical research methods is specifically supported via the MRC-NIHR Better Methods, Better Research Programme
  • medical bioinformatics (including biostatistics, computational biology and systems biology): development and application of analytical approaches to understand biological mechanisms in human health and disease
  • cancer: basic cancer biology, translational research and epidemiology, including exploring the mechanisms of existing and new therapeutics (small molecules, radiation and biologics) and the adverse health effects of radiation exposure
  • toxicology and adverse health effects of environmental exposures: exploring the causal pathways and mechanisms through which toxic insults (for example, environmental agents, xenobiotics, adverse drug reactions, radiation) cause adverse outcomes and ill health
  • pharmacology: understanding the mechanisms of drug action at molecular, cellular and systems levels to improve efficacy and targeting (including through stratification) and minimise adverse or off-target effects

We encourage opportunities for collaborative research partnerships (for example, biomedical scientists, physicists or engineers, chemists and bioinformaticians) and those that apply interdisciplinary approaches (such as chemical biology, computational or systems biology, imaging technologies, innovative model systems, for example, organoids) to support our objectives.

MCMB is committed to supporting the development of new technologies and their application to biomedical science. This board encourages interdisciplinary research into innovative technological capabilities that will drive world-leading discovery research in human health and disease.

Together with the rest of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) we seek to embed equality, diversity, and inclusion in all we do, to ensure that we:

  • embrace a diversity of thought, people, geographical locations, and ideas in our research funding
  • encourage applications from underrepresented groups

Find out more about EDI at UKRI.

MCMB priority areas

MCMB has identified key challenges that can only be met with a more integrated approach across our portfolio. These areas are used by MCMB to prioritise investments during funding discussions, together with the MRC-wide priority areas. We encourage applications that focus on the following areas.

Understanding dynamic biological systems

Research that applies state-of-the-art technologies, quantitative analytical tools and systems approaches to understand complex and dynamic biology at different scales in health and disease. For example, genotype-to-phenotype, single cells, tissue and organism (including human and model systems).

This should include a combination of the following:

  • improved approaches to image across scales (bi-directional studies from molecular or structure-function, macromolecular, cellular, and physiology or in vivo)
  • improved experimental systems (cell, tissue and animal models), including tissue models that go beyond current approaches and introduce stroma, connective tissue and vasculature
  • using bioinformatics, mathematics, machine learning, and computational modelling to analyse biological systems, and understand biological complexity and pathological readouts
  • applying these approaches and this knowledge to develop gene or cell therapies and cell or tissue engineering systems biology for discovering drug targets or to validate, develop and understand drug action, toxicology and resistance mechanisms

Exposures, biological mechanisms and disease

Understanding the causal links between current and emerging environmental exposure threats (for example, air pollution, chemicals, nanoparticles and mixtures) and human disease is a priority for MRC.

A deep mechanistic understanding of biological targets and pathways (such as molecular initiating events, cellular stress responses and adverse outcome pathways) is required to build on the evidence of identified risks from epidemiological studies. This includes linking specific exposures to toxicity and disease. This relates to all types of exposures from environmental (for example, air, particulates and noise) to medicines.

Advances in our understanding of radiation biology in the context of cancer continue to be a priority for MRC under this board opportunity.

MCMB is keen to see applications that tackle these challenges, including:

  • exploring the causal relationships and mechanistic pathways linking toxic exposures and adverse outcomes
  • analysing multidimensional data to study insults and the molecular, cellular or physiological readouts to disease, and the influence of genotype
  • developing computational models and experimental challenge systems to study exposures, biological effects and causal pathways
  • establishing robust translational pathways to policy, clinical setting and industry
  • biological effects of radiation exposure on normal and malignant tissues at the molecular, cellular, tissue and organ levels

As part of MRC’s capacity-building activities in toxicology (including those related to environmental exposures and adverse drug reactions), MCMB supports the integrative toxicology training partnership. This is a core investment through the MRC Toxicology Unit to strengthen training, academic networking and capacity building across complementary disciplines of toxicology research.

MCMB will consider joint funding with the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) in areas of common interest. If you wish to consider submitting an application in this area email

MRC priority areas

In addition to the board opportunities previously mentioned, MCMB will prioritise submissions that meet the criteria of MRC-wide priority areas, which apply to all boards. These are:

  • new investigator research grants: supporting researchers towards becoming independent investigators
  • experimental medicine: understanding disease mechanisms and therapeutic targets using human participants
  • advanced therapeutics: using non-pharmaceutical approaches, including cell and gene therapy, regenerative medicine, nucleic acids, antibodies and other innovative medicines

Global health is also a strategic priority of MRC, and MCMB is keen to receive applications in this area that fall within the board remit. Notable opportunities include research that explores the links between environmental exposure and human disease in low and middle-income countries.

Where concerted action is needed, MRC invests through institutes, units, and MRC Centres of Research Excellence. These incorporate strong leadership, mission-focused research, training or capacity-building, and the application of innovative technology and methodology to tackle major research challenges.

These investments include strategic partnerships with host universities, and some involve joint support with other funders.

Find details of the institutes, units and centres we fund.

Who to contact

Science contacts

Programme managers within each research board act as the lead for their scientific portfolio across the MRC. They interact with the community within these areas, including on strategic activities. They also manage the peer review of associated applications.

Cell biology and developmental biology

Dr Holger Apitz, Programme Manager


Science areas:

  • cell biology (excluding neurobiology) underpinning our understanding of health and disease
  • developmental biology (excluding neurological development)
  • tools and technologies (including interdisciplinary technology development at the physical sciences interface)
  • general stem cell research
  • underpinning research into regenerative medicine and advanced therapeutics

Structural studies, biophysics, genetics, genomics and epigenetics

Dr Robert Deller, Programme Manager


Science areas:

  • structural biology and biophysical approaches to understand biological function
  • medical bioinformatics (including biostatistics, computational biology and systems biology)
  • large multi-user research facilities
  • underpinning activities at the physical science interface with health
  • molecular genetics (mechanistic understanding of gene regulatory networks, DNA function, repair and damage, epigenetic systems etc.) relevant to biomedicine and therapeutics development
  • functional genomics, genome variant and genome interpretation impacting on human health and disease

Environmental health, pharmacology and toxicology


Science areas:

  • toxicology, including the study of causal pathways linking insult to adverse outcomes and pathology and the development and study of experimental challenge systems
  • pharmacology, including understanding the mechanisms of drug action at molecular, cellular and systems levels to improve efficacy and targeting (including through stratification), and to minimise adverse or off-target effects
  • environmental exposures affecting health, including biomarkers of exposure and effect and associated biological pathways

Cancer cell biology and haematology

Dr Alicia Estacio Gomez, Programme Manager


Science areas:

  • cancer cell biology (including molecular mechanisms involved in carcinogenesis, tumour metabolism, tumour heterogeneity, tumour microenvironment and metastasis)
  • genome damage and stability (in relation to the pre-disposition and development of cancer)
  • radiation biology (including use of cutting-edge technologies to explore underpinning mechanisms, integrative approaches to investigate the stroma, vasculature and host immunological responses to radiation)
  • haematology

Cancer and oncology

Dr Isobel Atkin, Programme Manager


Science areas:

  • exploratory clinical cancer research, including biomarker identification and validation studies, patient stratification, early diagnosis, investigation of novel drugs, therapeutic targets and delivery approaches; pre-clinical development, and first-in-human studies
  • radiation oncology, including development of novel biological approaches from radioprotection to treatment of radiation toxicity
  • improvement of therapeutic effects of radiation, including through precision targeting and scheduling and dosing, combining radiation with drugs and biological agents, and developing biomarkers of response
  • cancer epidemiology including genetic and molecular epidemiology approaches into the aetiology of cancers

Other contacts

Multimodal research and operational lead for the board

Dr Siv Vingill, Interim Head of Programme


Areas include:

  • oversight of molecular and cellular medicine board (MCMB) funding meetings
  • strategic lead for multimodal research: research integrating different modes and scales (molecules to cells, tissues, organs and physiological systems) of biomedical research and human disease

Molecular and cellular medicine

Dr Charlotte Durkin, Interim Head of Molecular and Cellular Medicine


Overarching responsibility for MRC molecular and cellular medicine strategy and investments.

General MCMB enquiries


General policy and eligibility enquiries

Research funding policy and delivery team


Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system helpdesk


Telephone: 01793 444164

UK Research and Innovation Funding Service



01793 547490

Peer review


Last updated: 10 June 2024

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.