Medical Research Council

Reference: MRC/13/03

For immediate release Thursday 1 May 2003


TOWARDS CFS/ME RESEARCH: MRC ANNOUNCES TWO INITIATIVES IN
RESPONSE TO THE CFS/ME STRATEGY PUBLISHED TODAY
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To advance the field of CFS/ME research and in immediate
response to the CFS/ME research strategy published today (1
May 2003), the Medical Research Council (MRC) is announcing
two initiatives. One aims to stimulate new high quality research
proposals and the other focuses on the potential for
epidemiological studies in the UK.

To encourage research proposals MRC has today issued a
highlight notice to the research community (www.mrc.ac.uk),
welcoming high quality proposals across the entire spectrum of
CFS/ME research, from basic science to more applied studies
into possible treatments and health services research.
Proposals received under this initiative will benefit from
additional 'weighting' when being assessed in competition for
MRC funds, as CFS/ME has been designated a current priority
area for research.

To explore the potential for undertaking epidemiological
research in the UK, MRC will be organising a scientific meeting
to discuss how researchers could tap into the wealth of data that
exists in national population studies and information databases.
This could allow a valuable picture of CFS/ME in the community
to be obtained. The UK has a number of population based
studies following groups of people from birth or other fixed age
points which monitor health and wellbeing over time. The UK
also has the advantage of the NHS records database and other
related health networks which could contribute to CFS/ME
knowledge.

Sir George Radda, Chief Executive of the MRC said: "On
behalf of the MRC I'd like to thank the CFS/ME Research
Advisory Group for its hard work in drawing together a research
strategy for all researchers and funders.

"We fully endorse its conclusions and recommendations. MRC
welcomes high quality research proposed in any area of science
relevant to its mission, but we hope the MRC initiatives
announced today will encourage researchers to produce fresh
ideas as a step towards expanding UK research and improving
health."

Ends

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Notes to editors

1.The full CFS/ME research strategy is published today on the
MRC website (www.mrc.ac.uk). More details on the key
recommendations and conclusions are available in MRC
release ref MRC/12/03 also published on the MRC website or
available from the MRC press office.

2 .More information on the setting up of the Research Advisory
Group including notes of meetings, membership and information
on the consultation that shaped the strategy can be found in the
CFS/ME web pages:

(http://www.mrc.ac.uk/index/public-interest/public-topical_issues/public-cfs_me.htm)

3. MRC highlight notices are a mechanism for alerting the
research community to areas in which MRC would be particularly
keen to see quality applications. This is the usual method for
flagging an area deemed a current research priority in which
new proposals would be particularly welcomed. All proposals
received under this initiative will compete for funding according
to normal criteria, including scientific excellence, but the
applications will have the extra 'weight' of being a current
strategic priority. Researchers will be encouraged to discuss
their preliminary ideas with MRC for further development into
high quality proposals capable of competing for MRC funds.

4. There are no further details available at present on plans for
the epidemiological workshop as work will now begin to set this
up and decide the format it should take. The intention is that it
will take place some time over the summer 2003

5. Epidemiology is the science of obtaining reliable information
on the pattern and incidence of illness which may in turn give
clues about causes or susceptibility. Undertaking
epidemiological research in the UK has the advantage of
several longstanding, successful national frameworks funded by
the MRC and others. Examples include, among others - MRC
funded population cohorts of people born between the 1940's
and the 1970's whose health has been monitored since birth; the
Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (Children of the
90s),co funded with Wellcome Trust and Department of Health;
the MRC supported Whitehall Studies 1 and 2 looking at the
health of Civil Servants, plus other networks such as the MRC
Health Services Collaboration and similar cohorts funded
independently by other funding agencies.

6.The Medical Research Council (MRC) is a national
organisation funded by the UK tax-payer. Its business is medical
research aimed at improving human health; everyone stands to
benefit from the outputs. The research it supports and the
scientists it trains meet the needs of the health services, the
pharmaceutical and other health-related industries and the
academic world. MRC has funded work which has led to some
of the most significant discoveries and achievements in
medicine in the UK. About half of the MRC's expenditure of £413
million is invested in over 50 of its Institutes and Units, where it
employs its own research staff. The remaining half goes in the
form of grant support and training awards to individuals and
teams in universities and medical schools.