Dr Faisel Khan, with ME Research UK Vice-Chair Sue Waddle, Patron The Countess of Mar, and Trustee Jan McKendrick at the launch of the CMRC

Dr Faisel Khan, with ME Research UK Vice-Chair Sue Waddle, Patron The Countess of Mar, and Trustee Jan McKendrick at the launch of the CMRC

The two-day conference taking place in Bristol from 1–2 September is the first to be hosted by the UK CFS/ME Research Collaborative (CMRC). The aim of the CMRC – the first of its kind in the world – is to promote the highest quality of basic and applied evidenced-based and peer reviewed research into ME/CFS by bringing together national agencies, ME/CFS charities, and working researchers from across the UK who wish to work towards that common goal. The CMRC was launched in April 2013 at the Wellcome Collection in London (read our overview of the day), and its importance was underscored by the attendance of the Duke of Kent, Patron of the ME Association, and the Countess of Mar, one of the Patrons of ME Research UK.

The 2014 conference is taking place in Wills Hall, part of the University of Bristol, and the organisers have brought together a range of international speakers as well as researchers from the UK. These include Prof Robert Dantzer  of the Anderson Cancer Centre, Prof Andrew Lloyd of University of New South Wales, Sydney, Prof Ian Lipkin of Columbia University, New York and MRC-funded research project leaders, each giving a brief presentation followed by a panel discussion and question and answer session.

The members of the CMRC are grateful to the Medical Research Council – the publicly-funded Government agency responsible for co-ordinating and funding medical research in the UK – for subsidising the conference, and particularly for its sponsorship of the patient–researcher session, which has meant that people with ME/CFS did not have to pay for a ticket to attend the event. This patient–researcher session will bring together leading researchers and people with ME/CFS to explore more and better ways of working together to enhance the research endeavour. At the end of the first day, there will be a networking reception for researchers and other people affected by ME; as the MRC has said, “We have been keen to bring together charities and researchers in this area, which is why we supported the setting up of the CMRC. The MRC hopes that the patients’ session at this conference will be beneficial to those trying to take the field further – both patients and researchers.”

Conference numbers are impressive, with over 70 professional delegates registered for the research conference, and over 60 Associate Member delegates registered for the workshop. ME Research UK will be represented by Vice-Chair Sue Waddle and Research & Operations Director Dr Neil Abbot, who will be joined by several UK researchers awarded grants by the charity in the past.

An outline programme of the conference is given below.

Monday 1 September 2014

09.30 – 10.40 Welcome; Chair: Prof Stephen Holgate
10:40 – 12:40 Plenary Session 1: Inflammation; Chair: Hugh Perry
‘Anne Faulkner Lecture’ Neuro-inflammation; Prof Robert Dantzer
Interferon-α rapidly changes brain microstructure; Dr Neil Harrison
Interferon-alpha (IFN-α) induced Persistent Fatigue; Dr Alice Russell
Blood cytokine concentrations in CFS: a systematic review; Dr Lisa Bludell
Resveratrol treatment on TNF-α-induced cytokine release; Dr Kate Earl
12:40 – 14:00 Lunch and poster viewing
14:00 – 16:00 Workshops
Workshop 1: Working together for more and better research that benefits people with CFS/ME; Associate member/patient and researcher session
Workshop 2: Pain
Workshop 3: Sleep & fatigue
Workshop 4: What should we measure? Core outcome sets & patient-recorded outcome measures
Workshop 5: Inflammation & infection
16:30 – 17:30 Panel discussion for Researchers and Associate Members
Prof Robert Dantzer, Prof Andrew Lloyd, Prof Ian Lipkin, and MRC-funded researchers

Tuesday 2 September 2014

9:00 – 11:15 Plenary Session 2: MRC funded CFS/ME research. Chair: Stephen Holgate
Presentations from research groups funded by the MRC in 2012/3 (MRC Grant Awards). These groups are led by:
Professor Anne McArdle, University of Liverpool
Professor Julia Newton, Newcastle University
Dr Wan Ng, Newcastle University
Professor David Nutt, Imperial College London
Dr Carmine Pariante, King’s College London
11:15 – 13:00 Plenary Session 3: Infection. Chair: Paul Little
Presenters Prof Andrew Lloyd and Prof Ian Lipkin, followed by a question and answer session
13:00 – 14:30 Lunch and poster viewing
14:30 – 15.45 Plenary Session 4: Pain, paediatric CFS & epidemiology. Chair: Maria Fitzgerald
Presenters Dr Jon Tobias and Dr Roberto Neuvo
15.45 – 16.05 Feedback from workshops, and discussion on ‘Taking collaboration forward: next steps’. Chair: Prof Stephen Holgate
16:05 – 16:10 End of conference summary by Prof Hugh Perry