Five funders – LifeArc, My Name’5 Doddie, MND Association, MRC and NIHR – have united to launch a call for applications to accelerate translational motor neurone disease (MND) research. The funders have committed £4 million to support one collaborative application that will address a major block to translation in the MND space.

Background to the collaborative partnership

The UK is a leader in MND research and has been integral in uncovering new understanding of the disease process. Now this scientific knowledge needs to overcome new hurdles and be translated into new interventions for patients and realise the tangible economic benefits of this research.

A new approach is needed that will bring together government, academia, industry and the charitable sector.

Now the government and charitable organisations who fund MND research have come together to fund a collaborative call to address a major challenge. The partnership will speed up the discovery of new ways to test and identify better treatments for MND patients.

The scope of the call – what we are looking for

This call will bring the UK MND research community together to accelerate translation of MND research by addressing a major block to translation. Unblocking translation will lead to the development of disease modifying treatments.

The funders aim to support one substantive collaborative application that brings together the strengths of the UK MND research field and leverages expertise and resources from the wider research landscape (eg Dementias Platform UK, UK Dementia Research Institute or Health Data Research UK). The application should be led by a UK Institution, but this could include collaboration with key global expertise.

The funders will require the applicants to work together on the following:

  • the problem to be addressed
  • the work packages and key milestones
  • who will lead which aspects of the application and how they will be feasibly delivered
  • how the work packages and achievement of milestones will be coordinated and project managed
  • definition of the governance system
  • costing out the application

This funding will not be used for a series of small research projects that do not come together to address the key roadblock, nor will it be used to develop living aid or palliative therapies.

The work packages and leadership

The application should:

  • address one major block to translation, but may tackle different aspects of the problem or tackle the same problem in different ways
  • clearly present the problem to be addressed
  • explain the different approaches to solving that problem
  • break the work down in to separate work packages
  • link the work to the achievement of definable milestones
  • explain how the different work packages i) will fit together, ii) who will lead each work package, and iii) how that will be delivered.
  • include a Gantt Chart to illustrate the work packages

Access to external resources or industrial collaborators

The applicants are encouraged to leverage existing infrastructure where possible. Involving groups from outside the established MND research space is encouraged where their skills or infrastructure will add value to the project.

Collaborations with industry are encouraged to support the unblocking of translation, although money cannot be used directly to fund a company and the standard UKRI-MICA rules will be applied to IP sharing.

Project management and governance

The funders also expect that some of the funds will be used to employ at least one full time member of staff as a partnership coordinator to provide project management support and ensure that all the work packages synergise together.

The funders expect there will be a steering committee put in place to oversee the work and ensure the smooth running of the programme. The partnership coordinator will also be responsible for reporting to the funders on progress of the partnership.

Patient involvement

It is important that the partnership is focused on delivering for the needs of MND patients. The application should include plans for patient engagement and explain how that will be used to inform the partnership.

Sustainability

The term of the award is expected to be around three years depending on how the work packages are structured. The funders would like to see that the applicants have thought about the longer-term vision for MND research in the UK and explain how this funding will help achieve that vision. In addition, the funders would like the application to also consider the long-term sustainability of the partnership beyond the term of this award.

Costing the application

This award will be administered through LifeArc. There is £4 million committed which will fund one application. There is a possibility that slightly more funding may be available. The application should be costed out to deliver maximum benefit for the funding that is available. The funding request should be driven by the milestones.

Process and timelines

The call will be officially launched at a workshop to be held in London on 3 December 2021. Anyone interested in attending the workshop should contact us using the form below.

An application form will be provided to applicants at the launch workshop. Applications must be submitted to LifeArc via by 4pm on 28 January 2022.

Submitted applications will be subject to review by a Research Advisory Panel (RAP) made up of international experts from academia and industry.

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