Funding to Establish Research Consortia to Underpin Proactive Vaccinology
Funding is available for research carried out by consortia to tackle questions surrounding the nature and drivers of pathogen evolution and immune responses to vaccination.
The Funding to Establish Research Consortia to Underpin Proactive Vaccinology scheme is led by the Medical Research Council (MRC) in partnership with the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). Consortia are sought to tackle questions surrounding the nature and drivers of pathogen evolution and immune responses to vaccination. It is hoped that more knowledge in this area will help to overcome the barriers to development of next-generation vaccines with broader, more durable and, optimally, transmission-blocking efficacy.
At least two consortia will be supported for up to five years. Applications must be coordinated and multidisciplinary, with strong links to public health infrastructure, other UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) investments, industry partners and vaccine development resources.
Comsortia will each focus on one of two complementary themes and are each expected to deliver a coordinated portfolio of innovative discovery research, aligned to an ambitious vision and a robust, clearly articulated governance structure. The call themes are:
- Fundamental virology – drivers and impact of variant emergence:
- Mechanisms underpinning changes in disease transmission and immune escape.
- Predicting disease severity from virus mutation profiles.
- Understanding mutation accumulation in targeted immunosuppressed groups to predict evolution.
- Assessing viral antigen stability and functionality.
- Underpinning immunology to support vaccinology:
- Understanding the drivers of sustained and broad immunity.
- Targeting mucosal responses.
- Improving the breadth of protective immunological responses.
- Development of reliable correlates of protection to support early vaccine development.
- Building understanding of the mechanisms of partial or failed vaccine responses in vulnerable patient groups.
Across both consortia, the longer term aim is to:
- Enable next-generation pan-coronavirus vaccines.
- Establish networks of virologists and immunologists with capacity and tools to rapidly investigate emergent pathogens.
- Build strong, bidirectional links with vaccine, therapeutic and diagnostic developers.
It is expected that the consortia will initially focus on SARS-CoV-2, levering the substantial investment and remaining public health need around COVID-19, with a clear pathway to diversify their focus in the longer term to addressing a broader range of other important pathogens.
The consortium lead applicant must:
- Be employed by an eligible research organisation.
- Meet the standard MRC eligibility criteria (as outlined in the MRC guidance for applicants).
- Have at least a postgraduate degree.
- Have a record of securing funding and delivering research.
One UK Principal Investigator must act as the lead applicant. Applications from groupings of researchers from multiple disciplines, institutions and research interests are strongly encouraged.
The total scheme budget is £16 million. Consortia can apply for up to £8 million at 80% of the full economic cost. Funding can last for up to five years. Successful applicants should start their awards no later than September 2023.
There is a two-stage application process consisting of a mandatory Expression of Interest proposal followed by an invited full application. Expressions of Interest must be submitted by the deadline of 14 November 2022 (12:00). Invited full applications must be submitted by the deadline of 25 January 2023 (16:00).
(This report was the subject of a RESEARCHconnect Newsflash.)