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Warwick secures over £1m from Medical Research Council

  • Funding will support research into the mammalian brain and will foster new collaborations between researchers and industry

Innovative University of Warwick research will be accelerated thanks to over £1m of funding from the Medical Research Council (MRC) to take ground-breaking ideas into industry and out to patients.

The funding comprises a Proximity to Discovery award to the Warwick MRC Industry Engagement Fund (WMIEF) of £100k and a Discovery Award of £973k to support vivo microscopy researchers investigate the dynamic activity of individual neural cells during complex behaviours.

Led by Professor Nicholas Dale, of the University of Warwick’s School of Life Sciences, researchers will investigate the activity of neural cells deep in the mammalian brain that help control complex behaviours such as feeding and breathing and the operation of the body’s circadian clock.

In many instances neural activity during behaviour is either unknown or indirectly inferred. As a result, untested assumptions about neural activity during function permeate many aspects of modern mammalian neuroscience – with the Warwick researchers seeking to record and manipulate the activity of specifically identified neurons and other cells in the brain while the animal is behaving freely. This is essential to determine rigorously the relationship between neural activity and behaviour.

Discussing the research Professor Dale said:

“The long-standing aim of neuroscience is to understand, at a fundamental mechanistic level, how the activity of neurons and other neural cells control behaviour and functional outputs of the nervous system. While this has been achieved in simple organisms that have nervous systems composed of relatively few neurons, the modern challenge is to understand the far more complex workings of the mammalian brain and ultimately the human brain.”

Supported by a Proximity to Discovery award and led by University Pro-Vice Chancellor Professor Timothy Jones, the Warwick MRC Industry Engagement Fund (WMIEF) will foster new collaborations between researchers and industry in MRC-related areas of research, particularly in infection and immunity.

The WMIEF will build deeper knowledge and mutual understanding between academic and industry researchers, to showcase Warwick research for opportunities for collaborative projects, to enable knowledge exchange and establish new industry–led collaborative relationships that would not be possible without such funding.

To further these objectives, the WMIEF will be used to:

1) The building of a network of industry contacts and identification of potential collaborative projects through development of Early Career Researchers’ ”Market Validation” skills, as applied to their own research.

2) The initiation of deeper relationships with targeted leading companies by means of short-term secondments centred on exploratory mini-projects.

3) Open calls to all MRC Warwick researchers to enable the exchange of people between researchers and their existing industrial collaborators where specific opportunities arise to further develop their academic-industry relationships.

Professor Sir John Savill, chief executive of the MRC, said “The MRC funding awards announced today help to identify and encourage exciting science and bring different cultures together to form strong collaborations. The early outcomes show that through devolved decision-making, researchers all over the UK have exploited the flexibility and collaborative potential of these innovative schemes for health benefits.”

15 February 2016


Tom Frew, International Press Officer – University of Warwick:

a dot t dot frew at warwick dot ac dot uk