Environmental exposure and chronic disease

Exploring the impact of environmental exposure on health is an objective in the MRC Strategic Plan Research Changes Lives addressed by the MRC and partners under the auspices of the ‘Living with Environmental Change’ (LWEC) partnership.

Examples of MRC funding activities and the outcomes of MRC funded research are published in the mid-term update on progress against the objectives Research Changes Lives.


To define the research priorities in this complex field the MRC convened a workshop on tackling the effect of environmental exposure on chronic disease using air pollution as an exemplar. The workshop highlighted the potential to enhance the knowledge base relating to the environmental impact on chronic disease capitalising on advanced research approaches in environmental epidemiology and molecular genetics and novel measurement technologies.

MRC now wishes to encourage high quality research proposals addressing the research opportunities identified through the workshop (PDF, 215KB). Proposals are welcomed across the range of areas specified, including the following:

1. The development of improved personal measures of environmental exposure that can be applied in population studies to address pressing research questions, including:

  • Novel devices for the measurement of pollutants and/or other factors
  • Internal signatures of exposure or early effect, including metabolomic, proteomic, or epigenetic approaches

Collaborative partnerships between the disciplines required to tackle the development of these measures (for instance between population health scientists and physical/engineering scientists, chemical biologists or fundamental biomedical researchers) are strongly encouraged.

2. Mechanistic and system-based approaches exploring the causal pathways between exposure and chronic diseases

MRC funding opportunities

Dependent on the scientific area, proposals may be submitted to the following boards/initiatives, through the normal board deadlines and funding schemes:

• Molecular and Cellular Medicine Board (MCMB) is responsible for MRC funding of research on environmental factors/ toxins affecting health.

• Populations and Systems Medicine Board (PSMB) welcomes proposals that address the development of novel and innovative tools for the measurement of participant characteristics in population studies through a highlight notice in improved measurement methods for population science research.

• Experimental Medicine Challenge Grants initiative supports ambitious, challenge-led programmes of research into disease mechanisms in humans.

Interests of other funders

The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) will consider co-funding of individual proposals within their area of interest.


If you wish to discuss your MRC proposal informally please contact:

Dr Tim Cullingford (Programme Manager)