“On the eleventh day of Christmas MND research gives to you… ELEVEN members on our Biomedical Research Advisory Panel”
Thanks to a record-breaking MND research grants round of over 40 applications from researchers around the world, we’ve got a busy year ahead! We’ll be reviewing all of these applications and deciding which should be funded to help us achieve our vision of a world free from MND.
We are currently preparing for our Biomedical Research Advisory Panel (BRAP) meeting in April. This panel of MND research experts, along with Association trustees, discusses each application in detail. They then decide whether the research is good enough to be funded by the Association and fits within our research strategy.
Our panel are a bit like the ‘strictly come dancing’ judging panel, all with their own personalities and interests, judging which MND research application is the best and deserves to go on to be funded!
Dr Jean Waters is a former trustee of the MND Association who is living with MND, here she blogs about what it was like being a member on our Biomedical Research Advisory Panel (BRAP) and what it was like being a trustee.
A member of BRAP
Like most people living with MND I have a vested interest in MND research and am always interested in learning where it has got to and what is on the horizon. Having a medical background gave me a little more insight into the field than many and so when I first became a trustee I was delighted to represent the board on the BRAP. Continue reading →
This week is Volunteering week and we’re celebrating volunteering on our MND Research blog for our ‘blog a day’. Peter Bickley is an MND Association trustee and member of our Biomedical Research Advisory Panel (BRAP). Here he blogs about his role as a voluntary Trustee and what it’s like to be part of BRAP.
Until 2001 I had never heard of MND. Then, after the usual delay and uncertainty, my father was diagnosed with this unfamiliar disease; he died in 2002. The MND Association did not feature prominently during his illness, not through want of trying but because he simply did not want to know; this is not unusual, it is understandable but having seen it in action I am sure it is mistaken. So the efforts of the MND Association at the time were appreciated by those of us around him and the Association came onto my radar as a charity to support which, in a modest way, I did. Continue reading →
The day finally arrived on 11 April 2014 for our biannual Biomedical Research Advisory Panel (BRAP) Meeting. This important date in our research calendar is when grant funding decisions are discussed before being put forward to our Board of Trustees for approval.
But before we get to the meeting, there is a lot of preparation that is needed. As you are aware from previous blog posts, applications go through various stages of review, including summary review, invites for full applications and external review. Before the meeting itself there is yet another stage of review for the applications, which is known as internal review. This might seem a bit ‘admin-heavy’, but since we are only able to fund a quarter of such a wide variety of proposals, ranging from cell-based studies to clinical research, we need to be confident that we’re funding the ‘best of the best’. With so many new ideas, ‘separating the wheat from the chaff’ can be a difficult and time-consuming process!
This is a very exciting time for us. We are again in the middle of another bumper grants round with 23 full applications received. We have received applications from researchers already known to us, new and international researchers, allowing us to further widen our researcher network.
Full applications give a detailed plan of what the project is about, what the main aims are and how these will be met. Preliminary data can also be provided within the application form to strengthen the proposal, as well as costs.
January marks the start of a very busy time for the grants team. The next step for each application once received is to be processed and then sent out externally for peer review.
The 24th International Symposium on ALS/MND is now only one week away! We’re busy making final preparations and getting ready to report from the event, whilst researchers around the world are packing their suitcases, finishing off their posters and tweaking their presentations.
Dr Janine Kirby (SITraN)
But, what is it like to attend the symposium? What do researchers gain from attending? One of our grantees, and member of our Biomedical Research Advisory Panel (BRAP), Dr Janine Kirby (Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience) will be attending this year’s event. Dr Kirby has kindly agreed to explain why she attends the symposium and what researchers gain by attending this prestigious event:
“The symposium gives you the opportunity to surround yourself with the latest motor neurone disease research from across the world in one location. From advances in genetics to the latest healthcare research the symposium really does have it all!
It’s not just researchers, clinicians and healthcare professionals who attend the International Symposium on ALS/MND. One of our trustees, Julie Draper, will be attending this year’s symposium after a break of 11 years to find out the latest developments and view the symposium first hand as a trustee.
Here Julie explains a bit about herself and why she’s attending the symposium:
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.
In order to move forward in research it is vital that we help young, talented scientists into the world of MND research, as more top-notch researchers equals more top-notch research!
For the past twelve years we have been funding graduate students to learn more about the disease by conducting their own three year research projects under the careful supervision of an expert in MND. Not only do these studentships offer to bring fresh blood into the world of MND research with new and exciting ideas, but real scientific questions about MND research are answered in the process. Once a student has completed their studentship and has passed successfully they are then awarded their doctorate and hopefully choose to further their career in MND research.
However, we can’t (and should not) cherry pick graduates for studentships. The way in which we fund studentships involves researchers – in this case the ‘supervisors’ applying to us for funding. We will only provide funding to projects that can stand up to the full scientific scrutiny of our Biomedical Research Advisory Panel (shortened to BRAP) – so it’s all about the quality of the research instead of the quantity of applications we fund.
Each year we have two grants rounds and the latest grants round is dedicated to studentships. In total, we received four summary applications – which are normally a two to three page overview of the proposed work. Two are asking for funding for projects looking into the causes of the disease and the other two are looking at developing future MND therapies. These will now need to be reviewed by our BRAP for their scientific integrity and relevance to classical MND – those that match the required criteria will then be offered to submit a full application where the whole planned project with all their facts and figures for how much money they wish to spend on each part of the project will need to be justified.
We’ll keep you updated as the year goes on to tell you how many studentships will go through to full application, and what projects have been accepted for funding.