MRC £1.5m research announcement + ME Association statement

Press statement issued this afternoon by the Medical Research Council:

MRC invests £1.5m to encourage further CFS/ME research

Thursday 27 January, 2010

The Medical Research Council (MRC) is committing £1.5m for research into the causes of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME). The aim is to promote new and innovative partnerships between researchers already working in the CFS/ME field and those in associated areas, such as pain and fatigue. The aim is also to encourage and support more high-quality CFS/ME research proposals.

CFS/ME is a complex and debilitating condition with a diverse range of symptoms. Profound physical and mental fatigue is the most well-known, while others include pain, disturbed sleep patterns and concentration and memory problems. Each patient experiences their own personal combination of symptoms. CFS/ME affects around 250,000 people in the UK.

The funding call will focus on one or more of six priority areas identified by the MRC’s CFS/ME Expert Group in consultation with research leaders in related areas and representatives of two major CFS/ME charities:

• Autonomic dysfunction (malfunction of the nervous system)
• Cognitive symptoms
• Fatigue
• Immune dysregulation (e.g. through viral infection)
• Pain
• Sleep disorders

Full details of the funding call will be published here by mid-February 2011 following consultation with the MRC CFS/ME Expert Group: http://www.mrc.ac.uk/Ourresearch/ResearchInitiatives/CFSME/index.htm#P60_3922. The deadline for submitting proposals will be around June 2011, to allow time for new partners to discuss and develop their research ideas.

Ends

For more information or for an interview, please contact the MRC Press Office on 0207 395345 or email press.office@headoffice.mrc.ac.uk

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Dr Charles Shepherd, medical adviser to The ME Association and a member of the Medical Research Council Expert Group on ME/CFS research, comments:

“The ME Association very much welcomes the decision by the Medical Research Council (MRC) to fully accept the list of biomedical research priorities that were drawn up by the MRC Expert Group on ME/CFS research last year.

We are also very pleased to note that £1.5 million of ring -fenced funding has been allocated to specific areas of biomedical research that were identified by the Expert Group. This is a guaranteed position on research funding for a specific disease that the MRC seldom takes.

These two decisions represent a very significant shift in the way the MRC views ME/CFS research and they should ensure that research into the underlying physical cause of the illness is no longer something that is only funded by charities such as The ME Association. As a result of this announcement we also welcome the opportunity for the charity sector to co-fund high quality biomedical research in partnership with the MRC.

We would like to thank Professor Stephen Holgate, Chair of the Expert Group, for the way in which he has persuaded the MRC to both encourage and fund innovative biomedical research into ME/CFS at a time when there are severe restraints on new government funding initiatives”

Additional information:

The full list of biomedical research priorities identified by the MRC Expert Group can be found in the Minutes of the prioritisation meeting, chaired by Professor Hugh Perry, which drew up the list. The Minutes can be found here:

http://www.mrc.ac.uk/Utilities/Documentrecord/index.htm?d=MRC007174