UKRI posts ME/CFS research funding Highlight Notice

Opened for applications from 1st May 2023 and without a closure date, the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has posted a highlight notice inviting applications for funding for research projects into ME/CFS.

It is likely that the re-issue of a Highlight Notice is tied to moves to implement the undertakings given on behalf of Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (Sajid Javid) on 12th May 2022 and timed to coincide with this month’s forthcoming ME Awareness Week. The statement laid out that

The Chief Scientific Adviser has asked the UK Clinical Research Collaboration to convene a subgroup on ME/CFS to work with funders, researchers, charities, and people with ME/CFS to drive high-quality applications for research into ME/CFS and support the research community to build capacity and capability in this field. We are committed to funding research into this important area. Funding for high-quality research into ME is available through existing commitments of HM Government to research and development. The National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) will work with the research community to respond to the priorities as set out in the Priority Setting Partnership, alongside other funding partners.

The Highlight Notice specifically targets certain research questions arising from the PSP questions as well as seeking to embed patient involvement and stimulation of multi-disciplinary research.

We [the MRC] 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

Of course, the MRC has long advertised a Highlight Notice for ME/CFS research with mixed success and no new or ring-fenced funds are available. In fact, even the link which they provide to MRC research strategy and funding history for ME/CFS merely draws the reader’s attention to a track record of relative inertia.

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