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.
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.