A model approach

The Medical Research Council has awarded a total of £10.6m to fund research to develop better models of human disease.

The successful grant holders are based in universities across the UK and look at a wide range of diseases including diabetes, heart disease and age-related macular degeneration.

Dr Chris Watkins, who leads the MRC Translational Research Theme, said: ‘High quality models of human disease are invaluable in understanding disease processes, how they progress, and how to develop effective therapies. The studies were chosen to provide immediately relevant ways to discover new treatments and understand disease.’

The awards are one component of an initiative to target bottlenecks in translational research, as part of the MRC’s Translational Research Strategy.

Supported projects include those in vitro, in cell cultures or test tubes, in vivo, in a live animal or person, and in silico, computer-based models that use experimental data from animal and human studies. A total of £10.6m has been split between 20 research groups. Several of the supported projects involve collaborations with industry.

The MRC call for proposals on models of disease is part of the coordinated approach to translational research agreed between the MRC and the National Institute for Health Research, developed with the Office for Strategic Coordination of Health Research.

Enhanced models of disease will help scientists to learn about disease development and identify potential treatment targets, to test whether new therapies are toxic in any way, and to test how effective new treatments might be as they are developed.