Systems biology for medicine: Cross-Board highlight notice
The potential for systems biology approaches to address questions of medical relevance is becoming increasing apparent. We wish to encourage applications to all MRC research boards, particularly at programme-level, for “systems medicine”: using systems approaches in medical research.
Systems biology describes the study of complex systems, with emphasis on how interactions between components of biological systems underlie the behaviour of the system as a whole. It is typified by the generation and testing of models of complex processes (generally quantitative and computational) to explain and predict biological phenomena, and combines iterative cycles of theory, modelling and experiments (see for example review at www.acmedsci.ac.uk).
While the MRC already supports some medically-related research in this area, we now wish to build on the research & training foundations laid by other research councils, and encourage a wider range of applications applying systems approaches to medical research – “systems medicine”. Applications in systems medicine will be welcomed across the MRC’s broad remit, especially at programme-level.
Applications which fall partly outside the MRC’s remit can be funded in partnership with BBSRC and EPSRC. Cross-Council applications will be assigned a lead Council, which will draw on expertise from across Councils to take a single funding decision.
Recent examples of how systems approaches can be applied to biological and medical research can be found in the following publications:
- Ashall L et al. (2009) Science (PubMedID: 19359585)
- Gilchrist M et al. (2006) Nature (PubMedID: 16688168)
- Toettcher JE et al. (2009) Proc Natl Acad Sci USA (PubMedID: 19139404)
In addition to the general criteria for assessment, applicants should take account of the following factors:
- Applications should contain evidence of a systems approach to research.
- Multi-disciplinarity: applications will generally be expected to contain substantive collaboration between disciplines.
- MRC priorities: relevance to other priorities, highlight notices and strategy will be considered. In particular, research with a translational component will be welcomed.
- Hypothesis-driven research proposals, aimed at achieving specific endpoints, are more likely to be successful.
- Applications involving an industrial partner are welcomed through our MRC Industry Collaboration Award scheme.
- The MRC recognises the importance of collaborating with leading groups internationally, and would particularly like to encourage applications of this type.
Applications should be submitted to the appropriate research board, based on scientific or clinical area.
- Guidance on the application process and assessment criteria for programme grants
- Guidance on the application process and assessment criteria for project grants
If you would like to discuss your proposal informally, please contact:
Dr Rebecca Ward