Attracting Promising Research – Calling for Project Grant Applications

Autumn is fast approaching which means it’s time to open our online summary application form for our next round of research grant applications.

This round is for project grant applications. The deadline for summary applications is Friday 2 November 2012.

Reaching out for researchers

We currently fund ground breaking projects in a number of would class research institutes in Edinburgh, London, Oxford, Sheffield, Cardiff and New York, among others. This flexible approach allows us to fund the best and most promising research regardless of geographical location.

Good researchers are fundamental to good research and developing the MND research workforce, nationally and internationally, is a key element of our Research Strategy.

Getting the best of the best

As with all of the research projects funded by the MND Association, our rigorous application process allows us to ensure we only fund projects of the highest quality and of direct relevance to MND.

The way that we fund research starts with a summary application, which is a concise outline of the proposed project. After the deadline date has passed a decision is made as to whether the summary is relevant to MND and that the project will help us to move toward the aims set out in our Research Strategy. If the summary doesn’t fit, it’s rejected. If all criteria are met, the summary is reviewed by our Biomedical Research Advisory Panel (BRAP).

The reviewer’s comments and scores are then assessed using a two thirds majority rule. Each reviewer scores the summary application. A score under 50 is classed as unsuitable for funding, if it’s over 50 then the applicant is invited to submit a full application.

We hope this year holds yet another exciting round of project grant applications!

More information:

Apply now for an MND Association research project grant.

Find out  how we fund research.

Find out what research we fund.

May The Fourth Be With You – PhD Studentship Applications

Spring has finally sprung and so it’s now time to open our online summary application form for our next round of research grant applications.

This round is for PhD studentship applications, for projects starting in October 2013. The deadline for summary applications is Friday 4 May 2012.

Attracting promising researchers
Through our successful PhD studentship programme we have a track record of attracting and funding promising young scientists to develop their careers in MND research. Since 1998 we have funded 30 studentships, 12 of these are currently ongoing.

We need to continue to develop the UK basic research capacity by attracting more young scientists to develop careers in MND research. We can do this by funding PhD studentships.

Funding the best of the best
As with all of the research projects funded by the MND Association, our rigorous application process allows us to ensure we only fund studentships of the highest quality and of direct relevance to MND.

The way that we fund research starts with a summary application, which is a concise outline of the proposed project. After the deadline date has passed a decision is made as to whether the summary is relevant to ‘classical’ MND and the project aims fit with our Research Strategy. If the summary does not fit, it’s rejected. If all criteria are met, the summary is reviewed by our Biomedical Research Advisory Panel (BRAP).

The reviewer’s comments and scores are then assessed using a two thirds majority rule. Each reviewer scores the summary application. A score under 50 is classed as unsuitable for funding, if it’s over 50 then the applicant is invited to submit a full application.

We hope this year holds an exciting round of PhD studentship applications!

More information:

For further information please see the Prize PhD Studentship Flyer or visit our website www.mndassociation.org

Happy New Year – Quiz answers and round up of 2011!

And the answers to our Christmas Quiz are:

  1. How many neurones does a human have? Billions
  2. Which animal has the largest brain? Bottlenose dolphin
  3. How much does a human brain weigh in comparison with our total average body weight (in percent)? 2
  4. How many DNA samples does the MND Association’s DNA bank hold? 3,400
  5. How many research projects do we currently fund? 44
  6. How much does our research project portfolio currently come to? £7.6m
  7. How many PhD studentships do we currently fund? 12
  8. How many times a year do we have research grant funding rounds? 2
  9. How many unproven MND treatments have ALSUntangled investigated so far? 13
  10. How many stem cell research projects do we fund? 2

At the beginning of a new year, it’s always encouraging to look back on how far we’ve come. The list of MND research achievements continues to grow exponentially every year, and I’m pleased to say that last year was no exception, demonstrating that we really are living in exciting times.

2011 had some important discoveries in the world of MND research to find the answers to what causes MND. A number of MND causing gene mistakes were discovered including C9ORF72, Ubiquilin2 and SQSTM1. With these findings, we now know the cause of approximately 70% of cases of inherited MND – a massive leap from approximately 25-30% of known genetic mistakes the previous year.

Within the team, we’ve also made some promising headway toward our aims set out in our research strategy, by funding and promoting cutting edge research both within the UK and around the world. For example, our groundbreaking biomarker project led by Dr Martin Turner at Oxford yielded its second set of promising results, just three years into the five-year project. Dr Martin Turner also gave an enthralling talk at last year’s International Symposium on ALS/MND on neuroimaging (brain scanning) and he’s regarded as ‘the man’ to speak to in terms of MND neuroimaging on an international level.

As well as the research projects that we fund yielding positive results, and following progress on an international level, we’re also a major player in promoting research. The key to defeating MND lies in fostering strong collaboration between leading researchers around the world  and sharing new understanding of the disease as rapidly as possible. In 2011, we made two huge steps in this:

In January 2011, in conjunction with two leading members of the International Consortium of Stem Cell Networks (the Canadian Stem Cell Network and the UK Stem Cell Network), The New York Stem Cell Foundation and the ALS Association of the USA, we organised an MND stem cell conference. Our workshop brought together 60 of the world’s leading stem cell research experts to shape the development of future international MND stem cell research and to form new research collaborations. We were privileged to organise this event and the research community now have a solid foundation of understanding of where we are in terms of MND stem cell research. Dr Brian Dickie, our Director of Research now also has the honour of being a co-author on the scientific paper from the conference – published in the journal ALS.

In July 2011, we made a further step forward in sharing new understanding rapidly by joining a group of research-funding organisations to fund UK PubMed Central, an online research database containing over two million research articles. This is the first step in the Association’s aim to establish a comprehensive resource for the global MND research community.

We also had a fantastic year for improving the way we fund research and maintaining our high standards.

For our first grants round of the year, a record-breaking 19 full applications were considered for funding by our Biomedical Research Advisory Panel. Only one in five research applications is considered of a high enough standard for funding, but through our rigorous process we can provide our donors with the assurance that they are supporting the ‘very best of the best’ MND research.

Before our second grants round, we announced the successful launch of our online summary application form for researchers applying for grants and PhD studentships. By evolving our summary application process to use an online system, we are able to ensure that our high standards are maintained and that we are using our time efficiently and effectively to fund high-quality research.

We also proudly received our certificate for best practice for our rigorous procedures for funding research from the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) in the UK with a comment saying that we are “considered as setting the standard within the audit”.

You can find out more information on the research projects we currently fund on our research we fund information sheet.

One of our highlights from last year, and the result of over a year’s work in preparation from the research team and our conference team, was the International Symposium on ALS/MND held in Sydney, Australia. We are proud to organise this vital worldwide event every year, and are pleased that last year was successful. Holding the event in different countries around the world enables us to draw new people into the international research community, bringing new ideas and expertise to the field and creating new alliances in the fight against MND.

We took you behind the scenes of last year’s symposium by writing daily blog articles on a multitude of topics. If you’ve not already read these, you can find an introduction to these with links on our blog. Please remember to complete our survey on what you thought of our reporting, as it really helps us to determine whether we should continue to report from the symposium, and whether we should change anything.

We’ve definitely set the bar in 2011 and have a lot to live up to in 2012. We’re really looking forward to see what 2012 holds for MND research, and we hope that you’ll continue to follow our progress on our blog throughout the year.

We wish you a very Happy New Year from all of us in the Research Development Team at the MND Association.

How do we fund research?

As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, our current research grants round is our biggest yet with 19 full applications being reviewed by our research advisory panel. But what does that look like? And what do we have to do to prepare these applications for our research advisory panel?

To answer these questions (and more), and give you a brief insight into the work that our research grants team do to ensure we fund the very best research, we’ve made a short film featuring Dr Sadie Vile, our research grants manager and Natasha Rowe, our research grants administrator as the voiceover.

To find out more about how we fund research please visit our website.

Please do also let us know what you think about our video by leaving a comment below!

Research grants round in full swing!

With all the excitement of the symposium in Orlando, it is still business as usual for the next research grants round.  As some of you will already know, we sent a record 25 summaries to our Biomedical Research Advisory Panel (BRAP) for review.  Out of these a staggering 18 applicants have been invited to submit a full application, plus 2 deferred from a previous round making a grand total of 20 full applications expected in mid January.  This will be a busy time for the grants team, processing the applications as they arrive in the office.

The next task will be to find external referees (experts from the scientific world), on average 2-3 per application.  They will be asked to provide their opinion on certain aspects of the application which will then be taken into consideration by the BRAP before and during the meeting in April.  This is a very thorough process to ensure we fund top quality research.

More information on research projects we fund is available from our website.

Record breaking number of summary applications received

As posted recently, we are just starting our next research grant application round – and the number of summary applications received broke the record set a year ago.

We received 26 applications – 5 for PhD studentships and 21 for projects (requiring more experienced scientists).  These cover a wide range of areas, including genetics and cell-based research building on recent discoveries, further development of animal models, and the search for potential new treatments for MND. 

Only one application didn’t fit our criteria, so the remaining 25 will each be reviewed by three members of our Biomedical Research Advisory Panel (BRAP).  This left Natasha very busy last week sending out packs of summaries to BRAP members, as well as logging all the applications on our IT systems, and acknowledging their receipt to the applicants. 

When all the reviews are returned later this month, the reviewers’ scores will be used to determine which applicants are asked to submit full research proposals.

We’ll keep you updated on the progress of our research funding grants round – in the meantime, if you’re interested in finding out more about our current portfolio of research projects then please visit our ‘research we fund’ section of our website.

Summaries: dawning of a new round

It’s that time of year again where as one research grant application round is drawing to a close another one is just starting. 

Just one week after the Biomedical Research Advisory Panel (BRAP) meet to discuss the outcome of the previous grants round, we expect to receive a number of new applications for our next round. This time last year, we received a whopping 25 applications which is over half the number of projects that we currently fund! So, we are waiting in eager anticipation to see if we break a new record for the number of applications submitted to us, or whether the number will fall back to our ‘normal’ estimates by the deadline of Friday 22 October.

The way that we fund research starts with a summary application stage. A summary is a two-three page outline of the proposed project. After the deadline, a decision is made by our research grants manager as to whether the summary is relevant to ‘classical’ MND and the project aims fit with the Research Strategy:  http://www.mndassociation.org/document.rm?id=751,   if the summary does not fit in with these then it is rejected.  If the criteria are met, then the summary is sent to three members of our BRAP to be reviewed. 

When assessing the reviewers’ comments and scores we use a two thirds majority rule. Each reviewer scores the application, if it scores under 50 it is classed as unsuitable for funding, over 50 and we invite the applicant to submit a full application.

This process allows us to ensure we only fund research of the highest quality and of direct relevance to MND.

We’ll keep our fingers crossed for another bumper round and we’ll let you know of the outcome soon of how many applications we’ve received, and how many are invited for full application!

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