The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) aims to promote research that will lead to improved understanding of the maintenance of health across the whole life course, and provide knowledge and evidence to improve human health and wellbeing throughout life.
Systems and data-driven approaches, applied across the range of scales, from molecules and cells to systems, whole organisms and populations, are encouraged under this priority.
We also encourage multidisciplinary approaches, including those that draw on expertise from across the biosciences and, where the majority of the work falls within our remit, proposals at the interfaces with other research councils. These might include collaborations between biologists and physical, medical or social scientists.
There are several key areas within the priority.
Fundamental biological mechanisms of the ageing process
In this key area, we want to understand the fundamental biological mechanisms of the ageing process across the life course, its modulation by nutrition, physical activity, and developmental factors. We also want to understand the extent to which these impact on health in later life.
The impact of ageing processes
We want to understand how ageing processes impact on homeostasis and physiological function in areas such as the musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, immune, cognitive, circadian and sensory systems. We also want to understand how this can lead to age-related frailty and poor health.
The role of epigenetic effects
In this key area we want to look at the role of epigenetic effects in development and ageing across the lifecourse, including transgenerational effects.
Developing model organisms and systems
We are interested in the development of appropriate model organisms and systems that provide insight into physiological processes that are key for maintaining health in humans. We also want to understand the biological basis of inter and individual differences in the ageing process.
Use of resources and data
In this key area we are interested in the use of resources and data from cohort studies, biobanks and longitudinal monitoring to increase the translation of research from model organisms and systems to the human population.
Advancing regenerative biology
We are interested in generating new knowledge to advance regenerative biology, including stem cell and tissue engineering research to improve the quality of life for the ageing population.
Identifying critical periods
The identification of ‘critical periods’ during the lifespan may be particularly susceptible to biological influences and exposures and could potentially inform on the timings of interventions.
The effects of the modern lifestyle
In this key area we want to understand the effect of modern lifestyle on human health, for example, sedentary behaviour, night shift work and sleep disruption.
Developing and validating outcome measures
The development and validation of appropriate outcome measures, such as biomarkers of healthy ageing could be used to monitor health and track the impact of interventions.
What’s outside our remit
Although it is recognised that ageing is a risk factor for the development of disease, research directed at human pathology and disease is outside our remit.
Outputs from an increased understanding of the basic biological mechanisms of normal healthy ageing are positioned uniquely at the vital, very early stage of knowledge generation in bioscience.
Impacts are expected to improve health and wellbeing across the life course when this increased understanding is used by other public and private funders to underpin innovation in healthcare, interventions to slow or modify the ageing process and new pharmaceutical targets.
Applicants should explore the potential to translate the outputs of the work. For example, applicants could consider the translational opportunities that can arise from multidisciplinary collaborations and with ageing charities and the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries.
Capacity building is an important impact and proposals could identify opportunities both for training and bringing researchers from other disciplines into the area. Translational opportunities for outputs or impacts on policy with government bodies or departments should be explored.