Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: UK traumatic brain injury platform

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Apply for funding to establish the UK traumatic brain injury (TBI) platform, comprising of 2 parts:

  • a national TBI data hub
  • a national biomarker resource for TBI

You must be based at a UK research organisation eligible for MRC funding.

We will fund 1 award for up to £9 million (at 80% of full economic cost). Information about costs we cover can be found in our guidance for applicants. Funding will last for 5 years and we expect to fund 1 award

An intention to submit form must be submitted by 13 January 2023.

Who can apply

This funding opportunity is open to applicants from eligible UK-based organisations in accordance with standard UK Research and Innovation practice. Principal investigators and co-investigators must be based at an eligible research organisation and have a verified Je-S account to apply.

See more details on institutional and individual eligibility.

Applications must be able to demonstrate:

  • appropriate scientific and clinical leadership
  • track record of the use of health data for public benefit
  • ability to process health data for research and innovation

The platform must aim to deliver a national resource over the course of the award and include plans towards financial sustainability in the long-term.

Recognising the value of regional data sets and leadership it is expected that proposals involve multi-institutional collaboration. However, proposals must be submitted by a single lead organisation. Institutions may be partners to more than 1 application but should only act as lead institution for 1.

Subject areas

The platform is expected to include international-level expertise and hands-on experience for some or all of the following areas:

  • epidemiology and cohort management
  • biomarker identification
  • imaging
  • cognitive and behavioural testing
  • informatics, record linkage and database interoperability
  • human physiology, neurology vascular, metabolic and immunological expertise
  • genetic risk factors and their analysis
  • early phase clinical research (experimental medicine)
  • models of human disease
  • target validation

At least 1 member of the partnership must have a demonstrable track record in acting as a data custodian with the ability to make data accessible for research, development and innovation, taking place across academia, industry and the NHS.

Collaborations

We strongly encourage collaboration across sectors, including NHS organisations, academia, industry and other partners. It is essential that the proposal include plans to link up with existing aligned UK-wide initiatives. Collaborations with industrial partners should be managed through an MRC Industry Collaboration Framework.

You may also include international co-investigators if they provide expertise not available in the UK. This must be discussed with the programme manager before submission of the application.

Please note that principal investigators and co-investigators must hold a position at their institution for the duration of the grants. Early and mid-career researchers that do not fit the eligibility criteria may be included in the collaboration as researcher co-investigators.

The funding is not intended to support the continuation of existing research grants or groups in their current form, staff between posts or funding (meaning, as ‘bridging’ funds), or MSc or PhD studentships.

Support for training will not be allowable through this opportunity, which is focussed on establishing the platform. Once established, the platform will provide a basis from which to bid to existing schemes or, potentially, to make a case for supplementary funding.

What we're looking for

Objectives

This multipartner (MRC, DHSC, MoD and ARUK) funding opportunity is to support the establishment of a TBI platform over 5 years that will aim to advance patient care using multidimensional approaches to characterise, predict and stratify traumatic brain injuries.

The aim of the platform is to strengthen data-linkage across cohorts and longitudinal populations and enable biomarker discovery and validation across the life-course and in under-represented populations (for example, children, prisoners, homeless people, victims of intimate partner violence and military personnel). Linkages to other areas, including but not limited to, neurodegenerative diseases will be essential (see additional information for specific priorities in this area).

The TBI platform should comprise of a data hub and a biomarker resource that should be strongly integrated with UK-wide reach. It is anticipated that the platform will continue to grow in scale and ambition beyond the 5 years, evolving into a sustainable coordinated and integrated resource for TBI research across the UK.

Expectations for UK TBI platform

The UK TBI platform as a whole is expected to:

  • operate robust yet streamlined overview and governance structures for steering, coordination, management and goal delivery
  • enable cross validation of novel biomarkers via the TBI national data hub and link to clinical outcomes (for example, mental health, headache, neurological conditions and more)
  • enable improvement of disease models that reflect human pathophysiology to further understanding of the pathophysiology of TBI both in the short and long term
  • enable proof of concept experimental medicine studies and patient stratification as well as link disease outcomes with mechanistic targets which would lay the foundation for larger clinical trials in the future and consensus on trial endpoints
  • link existing TBI longitudinal studies with existing NHS data to:
    • aid patient recruitment for interventional studies across the lifespan
    • better understand the spectrum of outcomes and comorbidities
    • influence strategies for intervention
  • harness the power of machine learning and artificial intelligence to direct precision medicine approaches and patient stratification
  • reflect the diversity of the UK population and include neglected groups (for example, children, prisoners, homeless people, victims of intimate partner violence and military personnel) which might be less represented within NHS and care datasets
  • research on specific questions should not be the main focus of the platform application in the first instance, however funds to support small scale, pump-priming projects may be considered to demonstrate the capability of the platform and work applying to long-term risk of dementia is particularly encouraged

This is a multi-funder initiative, and it is expected that applicants will work closely with all funders throughout the course of the award, including participating in a yearly progress meeting with funder representatives

The platform is expected to consist of 2 integrated work-streams, a TBI data hub and a TBI biomarker resource.

Expectations for TBI data hub

It is expected that the TBI data hub will:

  • act as a centre of excellence for curation of TBI research data at scale and provide UK wide expert research data services to meet the needs of:
    • researchers
    • NHS
    • industry
    • charities
    • innovators
    • people with lived experience of TBI
    • the public
  • create consistent policies and governance frameworks for data access and sharing across to be used for future TBI data gathering in line with national standards
  • improve the discoverability, quality, breadth, depth and utilisation of datasets and provide a repeatable curation approach or open source tooling that can be used to enable UK-scale research and interoperability across key data sets to:
    • inform TBI outcomes and disease progression in different contexts (armed forces, sports, intimate partner violence, road traffic accident)
    • influence strategies for intervention
  • develop and maintain an appropriate infrastructure that links to existing developed or developing infrastructure and trusted research environments and enables data sharing, linkage and analysis
  • create world-leading data sets and make these discoverable and accessible to researchers and other users to help improve our understanding of the underlying mechanisms, and the associated biological, social and economic factors, that contribute to development, maintenance and rehabilitation of TBI
  • define key research focus areas and needs that will drive its strategic approach to data selection
  • be UK-wide in outreach, engaging key data custodians and users across TBI research community, related research projects and more broadly, and facilitate TBI research data science across sites and regions
  • be clearly driven by strong exemplar cases that demonstrate the potential to improve treatment approaches and enable novel insights into TBI mechanisms not currently possible without data at this scale
  • embed patient and public involvement in development, governance and operation of the hub to ensure it is driven by the needs of people with lived experience of TBI
  • contribute to efforts for harmonisation of procedures for prospective measurement of TBI in studies (including cohorts and longitudinal studies) and measurement of outcomes
  • be designed with capacity to:
    • evolve and respond to changing needs and opportunities
    • bring in additional funding
    • grow in ambition
  • incorporate plans for sustainability of the investment, including through grants, industry investment and service provision
  • improve secure access to data at a broader policy level through membership of the UK Health Data Research Alliance (the ‘Alliance’) and use of the UK Health Data Research Innovation Gateway (the ‘Gateway’)
  • harness opportunities to work across the ‘Alliance’ and link to or complement relevant existing investments, nationally and internationally
  • sign up to the UK Health Data Research Alliance Principles for Participation. This includes the FAIR data principles (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable) and proportionate information governance based on Five Safes framework
  • follow funders and HDR UK attribution policies, and align as required with relevant branding and communications guidelines
  • work collaboratively with existing health data research hubs as a UK-wide network and with other components of the relevant national health data landscape

A provisional budget for mandatory HDR UK services has been set aside and will be managed by MRC (you do not need to cost this in your application), however requirements for additional service provision may be discussed and requested in the application depending on need.

Expectations for TBI biomarker resource

It is expected that the TBI biomarker resource will:

  • develop a national resource to accelerate the discovery and validation of clinically relevant prognostic and diagnostic biomarkers (incorporating understanding biomarkers for risk of other conditions, including but not limited to, neurodegeneration and mental health) and harmonisation of guidelines and clinical practice
  • enable staging of progression using routine physiological measures (for example, metabolic, immune, changes in peripheral organs and blood) and symptomatic (cognitive, behavioural) changes as the basis of ‘read-outs’ that can be used for experimental medicine and clinical studies
  • increase understanding of the drivers of disease progression, including differential rates of progression
  • improve joining up of mechanistic understanding across different types of traumatic brain injuries and spanning non-neuronal processes
  • take a broad view of how TBI develops rather than focus exclusively on a single form of injury, considering common traits and mechanisms as well as the extent, influence and interplay of comorbidities

The use of human post-mortem and surgical brain tissue is strongly encouraged. Sample storage must be considered, for instance through the NIHR National Biosample Centre. Where appropriate, combining such studies with imaging analysis might be considered.

Organisations are encouraged to use and build on existing infrastructure and assets (for example, Safe Havens) where appropriate. The funding will not support building work or other significant capital expenditure.

For a full account of grant costs please see MRC guidance for applicants.

How to apply

You must apply using the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system.

You can find advice on completing your application in the Je-S handbook.

We recommend you start your application early.

Your host organisation will also be able to provide advice and guidance.

Mandatory intention to submit form

Please email the intention to submit form to siv.vingill@mrc.ukri.org by 4pm, 13 January 2023.

This is mandatory. Proposals will not be accepted from applicants who have failed to submit an intention to submit.

Please include the names of the principal investigator, potential co-investigators and any collaborating organisations confirmed at this stage. This is to help us prepare for peer review and manage conflicts at the panel assessment stage and will not involve any expert assessment.

Submitting your application

Before starting an application, you will need to log in or create an account in Je-S.

All investigators involved in the project need to be registered on Je-S.

Any investigators who do not have a Je-S account must register for one at least 7 working days before the opportunity deadline.

When applying:

  1. Select ‘documents’, then ‘new document’.
  2. Select ‘call search’.
  3. To find the opportunity, search for: UK Traumatic Brain Injury platform 2023.

This will populate:

  • council: MRC
  • document type: Standard proposal
  • scheme: Research Grant
  • call/type/mode: UK Traumatic Brain Injury Platform

Once you have completed your application, make sure you ‘submit document’.

You can save completed details in Je-S at any time and return to continue your application later.

Deadline

MRC must receive your application by 1 March 2023 at 4pm.

You will not be able to apply after this time. Please leave enough time for your proposal to pass through your organisation’s Je-S submission route before this date.

You should ensure you are aware of and follow any internal institutional deadlines that may be in place.

Attachments

Your application must also include the following attachments.

Case for support (maximum 12 sides A4)

The case for support forms the main body of your proposal and should follow the standard guidance for applicants.

Reproducibility and statistical design (maximum 1 page)

The purpose of this annex is to provide important additional information on reproducibility, and to explain the steps taken to ensure the reliability and robustness of the chosen methodology and experimental design.

Please note in this context, methodology refers to the rationale for choosing which method to use and not the provision of detailed descriptions of the methods to be used. It can be used to provide additional information specifically relating to the statistical analyses, methodology and experimental design aspects of the proposal (beyond that contained in the main case for support).

Please note that you should not duplicate information presented elsewhere in the application.

Justification of resources

Maximum 2 sides of A4.

All items requested in the proposal need to be justified in the justification of resources.

Data management plan

Please provide a blank document, as data management consideration should form a substantial part of the case for support.

CVs and list of publications

CVs (maximum 2 sides A4) and list of publications (maximum 1 side A4) for the principal investigator and each co-investigator.

Supporting data (mandatory)

Mandatory Gantt chart including description of yearly milestones.

Letters of support from project partners and for researcher co-investigators (if applicable)

Letters of support are mandatory when involving:

  • project partners
  • researcher co-investigators

MRC Industrial Collaboration Framework form (if applicable)

These attachments apply to applications with an industrial project partner. Please read the MRC guidance to understand if this applies to your proposal.

How we will assess your application

All eligible proposals that are in scope of the opportunity will be reviewed and assessed by a specially convened independent, multidisciplinary expert panel against the criteria below.

The criteria by which platform applications will be assessed are summarised below.

Scope and vision

This includes:

  • clarity of vision, including clearly specified goals and expected outputs that align with the scope of the opportunity and will accelerate the use of health data for research and innovation
  • clearly positioned in the wider landscape and providing additional unique capability
  • evidence that the proposed platform, the data it plans to gather and the resources it will provide are both interoperable and guided by the needs of users and stakeholders, including people with lived experience of TBI and the public
  • evidence that the proposed platform will gather data that aim to improve our understanding of the mechanisms of TBI and allow improved access to well-phenotyped human populations

Feasibility and quality

This includes:

  • importance of the unmet needs to be addressed and how these will be continually assessed to shape the platforms strategy
  • appropriateness and feasibility of the proposed approach for gathering of data as well as biological samples
  • evidence that plans for curating data will improve the quality of existing data for research and innovation
  • evidence of access to the distinct data to be made discoverable through the Health Data Research UK Gateway to complement existing national datasets and investments

Impact and engagement

This includes:

  • coherent plans for making data and services nationally available to users for research and innovation taking place across academia, industry, the NHS and charities
  • evidence that the applicants provide an existing physical environment of cross-sector collaboration, with strong relationships with multiple key stakeholder groups and academic consortium members to support research and innovation
  • quality of the plans for meaningful involvement of people with lived experience of TBI and the public throughout the award, including plans to allow access to data
  • potential for economic and societal impact that would otherwise not be possible without the establishment of a TBI platform

Leadership, management and governance

This includes:

  • convincing and coherent leadership, management and governance plans. Evidence of the team’s scientific and clinical leadership, an effective integration of expertise and skills and a track record of the use of health data for research, innovation and public benefit
  • quality and feasibility of plans to involve key stakeholders, people with lived experience of TBI and members of the public in the governance of the platform
  • demonstration that the context for platform delivery, including the environment, will be suitable
  • quality of the approach to management, including identification and evaluation of risks with appropriate mitigations in place
  • appropriate identification and management of ethical issues
  • clear evidence of platform sustainability planning
  • justification of resources requested and value for money

Clear confirmation that the TBI data hub will:

  • become a member of the UK Health Data Research Alliance
  • adhere to the principles for participation
  • onboard the metadata of datasets and utilise opportunities developed by the Innovation Gateway
  • adhere to all of the existing terms of access for the data

Contact details

Get help with developing your proposal

For help and advice on costings and writing your proposal please contact your research office in the first instance, allowing sufficient time for your organisation’s submission process.

Ask about this funding opportunity

Dr Siv Vingill, Programme Manager, MRC Neurosciences and Mental Health Team

Email: siv.vingill@mrc.ukri.org

Include ‘UK TBI Platform’ in the subject line.

We aim to respond within 5 working days.

Get help with applying through Je-S

Email

jeshelp@je-s.ukri.org

Telephone

01793 444164

Opening times

Je-S helpdesk opening times

Additional info

In the world, 10 million people are affected annually by TBI and it is an increasing cause of death and disability globally, particularly in lower-middle income countries. In the high-income countries, it is the commonest cause of death and disability in the under 40s and there are global costs of $400 billion a year (0.5% of annual global output).

In the UK, annually there are 900,000 accident and emergency attendances with head injury with 160,000 people admitted to hospital each year. There are approximately 1.3 million people living with disabilities resulting from these injuries. The vast majority of head injuries are not admitted, and most people with head injuries do not attend hospitals. The costs of traumatic brain injury in the UK is estimated at £15 billion per year.

Informed by the outcomes from a TBI workshop held by MRC in June 2022, MRC, DHSC, MoD and ARUK are making available £9.5 million to improve research on traumatic brain injury by funding a national resources on TBI data and biomarkers.

This is informed by a workshop led by ARUK and The Health Policy Partnership regarding research into dementia and sport.

Supporting documents

Mandatory intention to submit form (DOCX, 24KB)

Traumatic brain injury workshop June 2022 report (PDF, 180KB)

This is the integrated website of the 7 research councils, Research England and Innovate UK.
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