Research into acute trauma

The MRC recognises the clinical significance of acute trauma*, in both the civilian and military environments. We aim to increase competitive research in the UK of relevance to this field, in particular by increasing opportunities for collaborative research with relevant disciplines.


To define the research priorities in this complex field we supported the University of Birmingham to run a series of four workshops to determine areas for collaborative, translational research in acute trauma. These workshops spanned the pathway of acute trauma. They highlighted the potential to enhance research capacity by increasing awareness and collaborations with relevant disciplines, including but not restricted to immunity and inflammation; haematology, regenerative medicine and bioengineering.

We now seeks high quality research proposals addressing selected opportunities identified through the workshop. Proposals are welcomed in the following broad areas:

Early Trauma

Particular areas of focus could include:

  • Understanding the complex interactions between the coagulation, immune/inflammatory, complement and neuroendocrine systems in the acute period post-trauma, recognising the pathways to negative consequences from the interplay between these responses.
  • A systems approach to mechanisms of early complex trauma to understand complex interdependencies in these systems and the mechanisms by which negative cascades are triggered and perpetuated. The focus could be on applying understanding of molecular and cellular events to longitudinal events in the interplay and cross-talk between systems. This could also include identification of potential approaches for intervention and amelioration of destructive responses and be linked to coordinated data collection and curation from trauma patients.
  • Impact of ageing leading to more severe consequences from these responses
  • The development of point of care biochemical sensors e.g. for rapid coagulation assays.

Wound care and microbiological responses

Particular areas of focus could include:

  • Development of new experimental models of infection in trauma
  • Detection, prevention and management of antimicrobial resistance in this population
  • The pharmacokinetics of anti-microbial therapeutics associated with particular types of trauma and how this affects antibiotic penetration in partially devitalised tissue
  • Microbiome of wounds - detection of species (including rare or ‘exotic’ species) and strains that may cause infection or delay healing and their interaction in tissue to aggravate or mitigate infection
  • Understanding of how the immunoparesis that follows in the wake of the inflammatory cascade affects the patient-host balance and how may this be manipulated to boost the effect of antimicrobial therapy

Repair and reconstruction

Approaches are encouraged that include translation of current regenerative medicine, nanotechnology or bioengineering research into reconstructive approaches to traumatic injuries.

Particular areas of focus could include:

  • Tissue preservation and repair - exploration of means to optimally preserve specialised tissues and enhance endogenous repair mechanisms (e.g. using bio-active molecules to recruit progenitor cells) and diminish harmful on-going responses to injury
  • Early intervention for the prevention of muscle atrophy

Collaborative partnerships between the disciplines required to tackle these area are strongly encouraged. In addition, applicants should explain how research projects or programmes would interface with existing UK infrastructure and support, such as NHS clinical trauma centres; NIHR infrastructure and equivalent investments in the devolved administrations.

Successful proposals are likely to build on strong basic research in relevant disciplines and also to have effective relationships with clinical care – being closely linked to a major trauma centre or equivalent in devolved administrations, as well as experimental medicine capability (where relevant to the proposal). Favourable consideration will be given to proposals that involve collaboration with centres of excellence outside the UK which would further strengthen the UK’s own capability in the field.

Potential applicants should note that research focused on service delivery or care pathways are beyond the scope of this Highlight Notice

Isolated brain injury and recovery (including PTSD) are not included in this Highlight notice; proposals in these areas will be considered through standard application to the Neurosciences and Mental Health Board.

MRC funding opportunities

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

Applications may have cross-Board relevance; such applications should be discussed with the relevant Programme Manager (see details below).

Applications that extend beyond a core MRC health focus may 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.

Applicants should label their proposal “TRAUMA:’’ before stating the project title


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

Dr Karen Finney: PSMB Programme Manager


Dr Georgina Drury: IIB Programme Manager


*Sudden, one-time application of force or violence causing serious and often multiple injuries and where there is a strong possibility of death or disability