Investing in the future of medical research
We have committed over £1 million to fund life-changing research into degenerative diseases
Working with selected partners, our research grants fund PhD Studentships to carry out basic, clinical and epidemiological research projects that aim to improve knowledge, treatment and services.
As our population ages, demand on healthcare and social care services is growing, and our research grants are awarded in recognition of the increasing need for improved treatments and preventions.
Bowel and Cancer Research
"Although 41,000 people every year are diagnosed with bowel cancer and more than 300,000 live with Inflammatory Bowel Disease, the area of bowel research remains woefully underfunded in relation to the burden of the disease. We have no doubt that the MCF grant to Bowel & Cancer Research will help to change that situation."
Chief Executive of Bowel & Cancer Research, Deborah Gilbert
Kidney Research UK
Kidney Research UK received a grant of £255,000 to fund three PhD studentships.
Corinna Brockhaus was awarded the Masonic Charitable Foundation PhD studentship at Leeds University. Corinna will be looking at kidney transplant rejection treatment through virus blocking.
BK virus harmlessly exists in a healthy person, but causes problems in some kidney transplant patients as the medicines taken to prevent transplant rejection allow the virus to grow uncontrollably. There are no effective treatments for BK infection, other than reducing the anti-rejection medications, which then means rejection is more likely. Drug-like compounds that prevent BK virus from getting into cells have been developed. This studentship project will study how these compounds work, use structural techniques to make new more effective compounds, and show whether blocking BK entry can prevent or treat BK virus kidney transplant damage.
Transplants are a key area of research, and the number one concern for patients. At the moment a transplant lasts around 10-15 years, and the main reason they fail is because the body rejects them. Corinna’s research is tackling a key piece in that puzzle as to why and how rejection happens, and combined with several other key projects we’re aiming to get to ‘one transplant for life’ for everyone who has a transplant.
"Having to have a kidney transplant carries many worries and uncertainties. Hopefully my research into new therapeutics against the BK polyomavirus will lead to future treatments. I hope this will lead to patients and their relatives having one less worry to deal with."
Alzheimer’s Research UK
Alzheimer’s Research UK received £200,000 to fund two PhD studentships over the next four years.
Memories are stored inside cells in the brain called memory engram cells. Memory loss is one of the biggest symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease, but scientists are still unclear whether memory problems are because these cells fail to store memories, or because they can no longer fetch the stored information.
A new research study – based at the University of Edinburgh – will see Dr Szu-Han Wang and her PhD student trying to shed light on this problem.
If researchers can solve this puzzle, they might be able to unlock new treatments and help people keep hold of their precious memories.
The team are setting out to find out more about memory loss in Alzheimer’s disease by using an exciting new technique called optogenetics. Optogenetics allows scientists to use light to control memory cells. Using light to turn on specific memory cells has been shown to restore memories in mice with symptoms of Alzheimer’s. By understanding how these artificially restored memories work, this process could open the door to new ways to treat the disease.
Fight for Sight
Previous Medical Research Grants
Prior to our current focus on degenerative diseases we awarded grants to support medical research in many other areas, including those shown below.
Institute of Cancer Research
The Institute of Cancer Research received a grant of £143,400 to fund one PhD studentship to research cancer.
On 1 October 2018, Iona Black began her PhD studies at the Institute of Cancer Research. Over the next four years, Iona will aim to design chemical probes to help identify new drug targets on the cancer related protein Tankyrase. Iona is under the supervision of Professor Ian Collins and Dr Sebastian Guettler and will work across multi-disciplinary teams within the ICR’s Divisions of Cancer Therapeutics and Structural Biology.
The research will utilise a variety of structural biology and drug discovery techniques to identify and refine chemical compounds that target the particular region of the Tankyrase protein involved in a process known as scaffolding – this is a function of Tankyrase where two or more proteins are brought together in a stable structure. These compounds, known as chemical probes, will then be tested in cancer cell lines grown in the lab, to see what effect blocking the Tankyrase scaffolding functions has on cancer cells. This is a crucial early step towards the design of drugs that could one day be used in cancer patients where Tankyrase is involved.
For the next six to twelve months, Iona’s goal is to become fully competent and independent in the techniques she will use to target Tankyrase.
My first few months at the ICR have been intense but very exciting, as I realise how wide the field of drug discovery is. I look forward to seeing where this project leads me!
Cystic Fibrosis Trust
It was a great trial with lots of potential to improve people’s lives. I’ll continue monitoring some of the readings for my own benefit in the future and I hope the clinic eventually get to integrate it with their own service.
Cystic Fibrosis Trust received a grant of £500,000 to fund a pioneering project that had the potential to revolutionise the management and treatment of cystic fibrosis. Over the next three years, the Cystic Fibrosis Trust would create and test SmartCareCF – a new healthcare model that allows people to monitor their condition from home and liaise with their specialist health teams remotely.
By allowing patients to manage their condition from home, researchers intended that the creation of SmartCareCF would reduce hospital-based cross infections, lessen the daily burden of living with the condition and give patients more knowledge and control.
Not only did this grant support the development of the SmartCareCF kit – based around a smartphone based app – it also funded the crucial next stage, a period of testing on cystic fibrosis patients across the country.
The initial results of this study are extremely promising, with the majority of people finding home-monitoring a better way to manage their condition.
If rolled out more widely, it could transform the lives of people with cystic fibrosis, allowing them more time and freedom to spend with their families and friends.