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UK-Malaysia Joint Health Research Call in Non-Communicable Diseases


23/03/2016 Update: ASM Cost Pro-forma has been updated.

The UK Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Academy of Science, Malaysia (ASM) are pleased to invite proposals to the UK-Malaysia: Joint Health Research Call on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) through the Newton-Ungku Omar Fund.

This initiative will provide funding for UK-Malaysian collaborative research projects focused on non-communicable diseases in Malaysia.

In total, up to £4m will be made available for this initiative: up to £2m from the UK and up to £2m from Malaysia.

Expression of Interest submission date

Researchers planning to submit to this scheme are asked to submit an expression of interest to by Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Objectives and scope

This initiative will provide funding for high quality 2 year collaborative research projects focused on addressing NCDs of relevance to Malaysia, particularly those impacting on the most vulnerable in society.

ASM and MRC will welcome proposals across the spectrum of NCDs and have highlighted the following areas of interest as particular priorities:

  • Obesity-related research
  • Cardiovascular disease, especially young myocardial infarctions
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Comorbidity of NCDs with infectious diseases

Proposals are welcomed across a full range of research activities, including, but not limited to, basic discovery research, understanding the mechanisms of disease, novel detection and diagnosis, development of novel preventatives (vaccines) and therapeutics, investigation of behavioural, social and/or economic determinants of disease and public health research. Proposals must fall within the remits of both funders.

All proposals for this call must meet Newton fund requirements. In particular, proposals must be compliant with Official Development Assistance (ODA) funding rules. For further information see the factsheet "What is ODA?”

Therefore, it is crucial that all applications are of specific relevance to the Malaysian population. For example, this may include understanding the cause of disease or epidemiology in the Malaysian population, or the development or implementation of interventions for resource-poor communities.

It is the responsibility of the applicants to demonstrate how the research proposed meets the ODA criteria. ODA compliance will be a key eligibility requirement.

Through this call the funding agencies will only fund projects of up to 2 years in duration. All projects that receive funding must be completed by 31 December 2018

Background (provided by Academy of Science Malaysia)

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) have emerged as a major global health challenge of the 21st Century with the largest burden placed on low and middle-income countries. According to the World Health organisation (WHO), 16 million people die prematurely before the age of 70 every year from NCDs (News release WHO, 19 Jan 2015: Non-communicable diseases prematurely take 16 million lives annually, WHO urges more action).

In Malaysia, the prevalence of NCDs and NCDs risk factors have risen substantially in the last two decades. The Malaysian National Health and Morbidity Survey 2011 by the Ministry of Health Malaysia revealed a three-fold rise in prevalence of obesity amongst adults aged 18 years and above, from 4.4% in 1996 to 15.1% in 2011. This translates to approximately 2.5 million Malaysians who meet the criteria for obesity in 2011. A similar trend was observed with Type 2 diabetes, where an increased prevalence of 11.6% in 2006 to 15.2% in 2011 was seen. The prevalence of hypertension remains high at 35.1%. Approximately 32.7% or 6.2 million adult Malaysians were diagnosed with hypercholestrolaemia in 2011.

Based on the above survey, the Academy of Sciences Malaysia through its study conducted in 2013, projected a tremendous increase in prevalence of diabetes, hypertension and hypercholesterolemia by 2020 (ASM Advisory Report 4/2013: Prioritizing Food Policy Option to Reduce Obesity in Malaysia). It was predicted that an estimated 4.5 million adult Malaysians will suffer from diabetes. Hypertension and hypercholesterolemia will have a significant increase from 5.8 million to 7.6 million and from 6.2 million to 14.2 million, respectively, by the year of 2020.

The case incidence and mortality from cancer have also been increasing every year. The incidence of cancer in Malaysia has been reported to have increased almost 20%, from 32,000 new cases in 2008 to 37,400 in 2012. Based on this trend, 56,932 new cases per year are expected by 2025. WHO information (NCDs Country Profiles 2014) also shows an increase in the number of cancer deaths from 20,100 deaths in 2008 to 21,700 in 2012.

The above status and future projections of NCDs in Malaysia show the need for these health problems to be addressed with great urgency especially by pragmatic scientific measures.


This call will fund partnerships between UK and Malaysia based researchers working in the area of NCDs

For support under this call, applicants must be eligible to apply for funding from their respective country’s funding agency:


  • For the UK participants, standard RCUK eligibility criteria as described on the RCUK website will apply.
  • This call is a ‘managed mode’ call being run by the MRC on behalf of the participating research councils. Therefore Research Organisations that are eligible to apply to the MRC, for example MRC Units and Institutes may apply to this call. 


  • The Malaysian PI must have been awarded a doctorate or have equivalent research experience at the time of application. Applicants working towards a PhD, or awaiting the outcome of their viva/ submission of corrections are not eligible to apply.
  • Applicants must be Malaysian citizens and hold a permanent or fixed-term contract in an eligible university or research institute in Malaysia. Applicants with fixed terms contracts finishing before their grant end-date must secure confirmation from their Head of Department, stating that their contract will be extended to cover the duration of the award if their application is successful.
  • Contact between the Malaysian PI and UK PI prior to the application is essential. This contact should lead to a clearly defined and mutually beneficial research project proposal. Please note that ASM & MRCUK will not be able to assist in locating a Malaysian or UK collaborator.
  • Applications cannot be accepted from Principal Investigators in commercial organisations.
  • Applicants must be competent in oral and written English.
  • The Malaysian Applicant’s employing organisation must be willing to agree to administer the grant.

Further eligibility details can be found in the scheme specific guidance document.

All proposals for this call must meet Newton Fund requirements. In particular, proposals must be compliant with Official Development Assistance (ODA) funding rules. For further information see the factsheet "What is ODA?”

Principal Investigators may only submit one application to this scheme as Principal Investigator, but may be involved in more applications if listed as a Co-Investigator.

Funding available

We have up to £2m of MRC funding available for this scheme, and up to £2m from ASM. MRC will provide funding for the UK-based applicants under standard arrangements and at 80% FEC. ASM will provide funding for the Malaysian applicants according to the usual ASM funding guidelines (PDF, 66KB). The size of the grants will vary according to the needs of the research project. However, we would expect each project to cost up to a maximum £400k (max. £200k from the MRC and £200k from ASM) and therefore expect to fund around ten (10) projects.

ASM will also contribute up to £2m to this initiative. The ASM contribution will be made available to fund the Malaysian component of the research projects.

The size of the grants will vary according to the needs of each research project. UK and Malaysian applicants do not need to request equal amounts from both sides. The difference in values should reflect the difference in costs covered and local prices. The agencies also expect the costs on each side to accurately reflect the research effort to be carried out. It is expected, however, that the research effort on both sides should be comparable.

The MRC and ASM will not cover UK PhD studentships or requests for capital items.

For further information, please read the scheme specific Guidance for Applicants (PDF, 284KB).

Assessment Process and decision making process

To be funded, proposals must be internationally competitive and at a standard equivalent to that normally expected to be supported by each funding organisation.

Key assessment criteria for the submissions will be:

  • Significance and Impact of the research
  • Scientific Rationale: novelty, importance and timeliness of the research
  • Design and Feasibility of the Project Plan
  • Partnership: including strength and clarity of collaborations and opportunities provided, quality of the project management structure proposed
  • Quality and suitability of the research environment and of the facilities
  • Value for money for Malaysian and UK science
  • Ethical considerations and governance arrangements.

All applications will be externally peer reviewed, and all applicants will be offered the opportunity to provide a written response to these reviews. Following this process, applications will be assessed by a joint MRC-ASM Review Panel in October 2016.

Funding decisions will be made through a joint process.

Key Dates

Closing Date for investigators to indicate their intention to submit a proposal

Wednesday, 20th April 2016

Deadline for investigators to submit proposal

Wednesday, 1 June 2016 (4pm UK time)

Panel Meeting

October 2016

Grants begin

by 17 January 2017


How to apply

In order to identify peer reviewers and convene assessment panels in advance, it is important that researchers indicate their intention to submit a proposal. Please email an expression of interest as outlined below by Wednesday, 20 April 2016. The deadline for full applications is Wednesday, 1 June 2016.




Email address and Mobile phone number

Principal Investigator (UK)




Principal Investigator (Malaysia)




List of all Co-Investigators (stating whether UK or Malaysia based)













Project Title


Summary of proposed project (maximum 200 words. Please note: this may be used when approaching potential reviewers in the first instance)



Ethical considerations


Human/Animal Research


Will the proposed research involve the use of humans or vertebrae animals/ other organisms covered by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act?


If yes, please provide details.


If your research involves animals, please specify the species involved



Full applications must be submitted by UK PI’s on behalf of both UK and Malaysia PIs to MRC via the Je-S application system by 4pm BST on Wednesday, 1 June 2016. There is no requirement to submit an application to ASM as well.

UK applications will be submitted to and processed by MRC. Please see guidance for further information.

The Newton Fund

The Newton Fund is a £375 million fund which, through science and innovation partnerships, promotes the economic development and welfare of poor people in partnering countries. It aims to strengthen science and innovation capacity and unlock further funding to support poverty alleviation. It is delivered through 15 UK delivery partners in collaboration with 15 partner countries. Activities are in three broad areas:

People: increasing capacity for science and innovation in partner countries.
Research: research collaborations on development topics.
Translation: creating collaborative solutions to development challenges and strengthening innovation systems.

For more information visit the Newton Fund homepage and follow via Twitter: @NewtonFund

The Newton-Ungku Omar Fund

Newton-Ungku Omar Fund (NUOF) is a collaboration programme between the Government of the United Kingdom (UK) and Malaysia to develop collaboration on research and innovation. Jointly established to address socio-economic issues in Malaysia, NUOF is expected to deliver outcomes through the Science to Action (S2A) Initiative, an initiative undertaken by the Malaysian Government to enable sustainable growth beyond 2020. NUOF will cover activities ranging from growing capacities of the Malaysian science and innovation community through fellowships, mobility schemes and joint centres; forging research collaborations on development topics; and establishing innovation partners and challenge funds to develop innovative solutions on development topics

Contacts and guidance

Please read the scheme specific Guidance for Applicants (PDF, 284KB) and MRC Guidance for Applicants and Award Holders

For further information, UK applicants should contact:

For further information, Malaysian applicants should contact:

Norazwa Musiran, Programme Manager (

Liew Pei Shi, Programme Executive (