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Medical Research Council (United Kingdom)

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Abbreviation  MRC
Region served  United Kingdom
Founded  1913
Formation  1913
CEO  John Savill (1 Oct 2014–)
Type  Non-Departmental Government Body
Purpose  Co-ordinating and funding medical research in the United Kingdom
Location  Medical Research Council 2nd Floor David Phillips Building Polaris House North Star Avenue Swindon Wiltshire SN2 1FL
Parent organizations  Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Research Councils UK
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The Medical Research Council (MRC) is a publicly funded government agency responsible for co-ordinating and funding medical research in the United Kingdom. It is one of seven Research Councils in the UK and is answerable to, although politically independent from, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Contents

The MRC focuses on high-impact research and has provided the financial support and scientific expertise behind a number of medical breakthroughs, including the development of penicillin and the discovery of the structure of DNA. Research funded by the MRC has produced 30 Nobel Prize winners to date.

History

The MRC was founded as the Medical Research Committee and Advisory Council in 1913, with its prime role being the distribution of medical research funds under the terms of the National Insurance Act 1911. This was a consequence of the recommendation of the Royal Commission on Tuberculosis, which recommended the creation of a permanent medical research body. The mandate was not limited to tuberculosis, however.

In 1920, it became the Medical Research Council under Royal Charter. A supplementary Charter was formally approved by the Queen on 17 July 2003. In March 1933, MRC established the first scientific published medical patrol named British Journal of Clinical Research and Educational Advanced Medicine, as a periodical publication intended to further the progress of science, usually by reporting new research. It contain articles that have been peer reviewed, in an attempt to ensure that articles meet the journal's standards of quality, and scientific validity, allow researchers to keep up to date with the developments of their field and direct their own research.

In August 2012, the creation of the MRC-NIHR Phenome Centre, a research centre for personalised medicine, was announced. The MRC-NIHR National Phenome Centre is based at Imperial College London and is a combination of inherited equipment from the anti-doping facilities used to test samples during the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. and additional items from the Centre's technology partners Bruker and Waters Corporation. The Centre, led by Imperial College London and King's College London, is funded with two five-year grants of £5 million from the Medical Research Council and the National Institute for Health Research and was officially opened in June 2013.

Notable research

Important work carried out under MRC auspices has included:

  • the identification of the dietary cause of rickets by Sir Edward Mellanby. Mellanby also carried out human experimentation regarding vitamin A and C deficiencies on volunteers at the Sorby Research Institute;
  • the discovery, in 1918, that influenza is caused by a virus;
  • the description of neurotransmission and the first neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, by Sir Henry Hallett Dale and Otto Loewi, leading to a Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1936;
  • the development of penicillin by Sir Alexander Fleming, Sir Ernst Boris Chain and Lord Florey, gaining them the 1945 Nobel Prize;
  • linkage of lung cancer to tobacco smoking by Sir Richard Doll and Sir Austin Bradford Hill in the British doctors study, published in 1956;
  • the discovery of the structure of DNA by James D. Watson, Francis Crick, Rosalind Franklin and Professor Maurice Wilkins. Three would receive the 1962 Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine for their discovery;
  • the development of magnetic resonance imaging in 1973 by Professor Peter Mansfield and independently by Paul Lauterbur. This would lead to the 2003 Nobel Prize;
  • the development of monoclonal antibodies by César Milstein and Georges Köhler in 1975 (1984 Nobel Prize);
  • the identification, in 1983, of folic acid as a preventive measure for spina bifida and neural tube defects;
  • the conducting of large studies in the 1970s and 1980s which established that aspirin can decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease;
  • the publication of the genome of C. elegans, the first multicellular organism to receive this treatment, in 1998;
  • the ongoing Heart Protection Study, showing benefits of primary prevention with simvastatin in patients at high risk for cardiovascular disease;
  • Dr Venki Ramakrishnan of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology winning the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2009 for showing how ribosomes, the tiny protein-making factories inside cells, function at the atomic level;
  • the discovery that early treatment of HIV-infected babies with anti-retroviral therapy can dramatically increase their chances of survival;
  • the development of a test for detecting infectious prions on surgical instruments which is more accurate than previous tests and 100 times faster;
  • the identification of the second ever genetic variant associated with obesity; and
  • the finding that high quality surgery combined with a short course of radiotherapy can halve the rate of recurrence of colorectal cancer.
  • Scientists associated with the MRC have received a total of 29 Nobel Prizes, all in either Physiology or Medicine or Chemistry

    Organisation and leadership

    The MRC is one of seven Research Councils and since 6 June 2009 has been answerable to, although politically independent from, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. In the past, the MRC has been answerable to the Office of Science and Innovation, part of the Department of Trade and Industry.

    The MRC is governed by a council of 14 members, which convenes every two months. Its Council, which directs and oversees corporate policy and science strategy, ensures that the MRC is effectively managed, and makes policy and spending decisions. Council members are drawn from industry, academia, government and the NHS. Members are appointed by the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills. Daily management is in the hands of the Chief Executive. Members of the council also chair specialist boards on specific areas of research. For specific subjects, the council convenes committees.

    Chief Executive Officers

    As Chief Executive Officers (originally secretaries) served:

  • 1914–33: Sir Walter Morley Fletcher
  • 1933–49: Sir Edward Mellanby
  • 1949–68: Sir Harold Himsworth
  • 1968–77: Sir John Gray
  • 1977–87: Sir James L. Gowans
  • 1987–96: Sir Dai Rees
  • 1996–2003: Professor Sir George Radda
  • 2003–2007: Professor Sir Colin Blakemore
  • 2007–2010: Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz
  • 2010–present: Professor Sir John Savill
  • MRC CEOs are normally automatically knighted.

    Chairmen

  • 1913–1916: The Rt Hon. Lord Moulton
  • 1916–1920: Major The Hon. Waldorf Astor
  • 1920–1924: The Viscount Goschen
  • 1924: The Rt Hon. Edward F.L. Wood
  • 1924–1929: The Rt Hon. the Earl of Balfour
  • 1929–1934: The Rt Hon. Viscount D'Abernon
  • 1934–1936: The Most Hon. The Marquess of Linlithgow
  • 1936–1948: Lord Balfour of Burleigh
  • 1948–1951: The Rt Hon. Viscount Addison
  • 1952–1960: The Earl of Limerick
  • 1960–1961: The Rt Hon. The Viscount Amory
  • 1961–1965: The Rt Hon. Lord Shawcross
  • 1965–1969: The Rt Hon. The Viscount Amory
  • 1969–1978: His Grace the Duke of Northumberland
  • 1978–1982: The Rt Hon. The Lord Shepherd
  • 1982–1990: The Rt Hon. The Earl Jellicoe
  • 1990–1998: Sir David Plastow
  • 1998–2006: Sir Anthony Cleaver
  • 2006–2012: Sir John Chisholm
  • 2012–present: Donald Brydon, CBE
  • Institutes, centres and units

    The MRC has 27 units and three institutes in the UK and one unit in each of The Gambia and Uganda. It also has 26 centres offering partnerships with UK universities to develop centres of scientific excellence. Three MRC-funded 'lifelong health' research centres were announced in 2008 as part of the Lifelong Health and Wellbeing programme – the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council.

    The following is a list of the MRC's current institutes, centres and units:

    Aberdeen

  • MRC Centre for Medical Mycology at the University of Aberdeen (MRC CMM)
  • Birmingham

  • MRC Centre for Immune Regulation (based at the University of Birmingham)
  • Brighton

  • MRC Genome Damage and Stability Centre (based at the University of Sussex)
  • Bristol

  • MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit at the University of Bristol (MRC IEU)
  • Cambridge

  • MRC Biostatistics Unit (BSU)
  • MRC Cancer Unit
  • MRC & Wellcome Trust Centre for Behavioural and Clinical Neurosciences Institute (BCNI) (based at the University of Cambridge)
  • MRC Centre for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine (based at the University of Cambridge)
  • MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit (MRC CBSU)
  • MRC Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge (MRC EU)
  • MRC Human Nutrition Research (MRC HNR)
  • MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB)
  • MRC Metabolic Diseases Unit (MRC MDU)
  • MRC Mitochondrial Biology Unit (MRC MBU)
  • Cardiff

  • MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics (based at Cardiff University)
  • Dundee

  • MRC Protein Phosphorylation and Ubiquitylation Unit at the University of Dundee) (MRC PPU)
  • Edinburgh

  • MRC Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology (MRC CCACE) (based at the University of Edinburgh)
  • MRC Centre for Genetics and Molecular Medicine (IGMM) (based at the University of Edinburgh)
  • MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine (CRM) (based at the University of Edinburgh)
  • MRC Centre for Reproductive Health (CRH) (based at the University of Edinburgh)
  • MRC Human Genetics Unit at the University of Edinburgh (MRC HGU) (based at the University of Edinburgh)
  • The Scottish Collaboration for Public Health Research and Policy (SCPHRP) (based at the University of Edinburgh)
  • MRC Centre for Inflammation Research at the University of Edinburgh (based at the University of Edinburgh)
  • Entebbe

  • MRC/UVRI Uganda Research Unit on AIDS
  • Fajarra

  • MRC Unit, The Gambia
  • Glasgow

  • MRC/Chief Scientist Office Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow (MRC/CSO SPHSU) (based at the University of Glasgow)
  • MRC Institute of Hearing Research (MRC IHR) (based at the University of Glasgow)
  • MRC/University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research (MRC-UoG CVR) (based at the University of Glasgow)
  • Harwell

  • MRC Mammalian Genetics Unit (MRC MGU)
  • Research Complex at Harwell (RCaH)
  • Leicester

  • MRC Toxicology Unit (based at the University of Leicester)
  • Liverpool

  • MRC Centre for Drug Safety Science (based at the University of Liverpool)
  • London

  • MRC Asthma UK Centre in Allergic Mechanisms of Asthma (based at King's College London)
  • MRC Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology at UCL (MRC LMCB at UCL) (based at University College London)
  • MRC Centre of Epidemiology for Child Health (based at University College London)
  • MRC Centre for Developmental Neurobiology (based at King's College London)
  • MRC Centre for Molecular Bacteriology and Infection (based at Imperial College London)
  • MRC Centre for Neurodegenerative Research (based at King's College London)
  • MRC Centre for Neuromuscular Diseases (based at University College London)
  • MRC Centre for Outbreak Analysis and Modelling (based at Imperial College London)
  • MRC Centre for Transplantation (based at King's College London)
  • MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences (MRC LMS) (based at Imperial College London)
  • MRC Clinical Trials Unit at UCL (MRC CTU at UCL) (based at University College London)
  • The Crucible Centre (based at University College London)
  • Centre for Environment and Health (jointly based at King's College London and Imperial College London)
  • MRC International Nutrition Group (based at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine)
  • MRC National Institute for Medical Research (MRC NIMR) including the MRC Biomedical NMR Centre (planned to move to the new Francis Crick Institute in 2015, a partnership between the MRC, Cancer Research UK, Imperial College London, King's College London, the Wellcome Trust and University College London)
  • MRC Prion Unit (based at University College London)
  • MRC Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry (SGDP) Centre (based at King's College London)
  • MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing at UCL (MRC LHA at UCL), home of the National Survey of Health & Development
  • MRC/University College London Centre for Medical Molecular Virology (based at University College London)
  • Newcastle

  • MRC Centre for Brain Ageing and Vitality (MRC CBAV) (based at Newcastle University)
  • Nottingham

  • MRC Institute of Hearing Research (MRC IHR) (based at the University of Nottingham)
  • Oxford

  • MRC Anatomical Neuropharmacology Unit at the University of Oxford (MRC ANU) (based at the University of Oxford)
  • MRC/Cancer Research UK/BHF Clinical Trial Service Unit & Epidemiological Studies Unit (CTSU)
  • CRUK/MRC Oxford Institute for Radiation Oncology (OIRO) (based at the University of Oxford)
  • MRC Centre for Genomics and Global Health (CGGH)
  • MRC Functional Genomics Unit at the University of Oxford (MRC FGU) (based at the University of Oxford)
  • MRC Human Immunology Unit at the University of Oxford (MRC HIU) (based at the University of Oxford)
  • MRC Molecular Haematology Unit at the University of Oxford (MRC MHU) (based at the University of Oxford)
  • Sheffield

  • MRC Centre for Developmental and Biomedical Genetics (based at the University of Sheffield)
  • Southampton

  • MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit at the University of Southampton (MRC LEU)
  • References

    Medical Research Council (United Kingdom) Wikipedia


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