Medical Research Council (United Kingdom)

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Medical Research Council
UK Medical Research Council Logo.jpg
Abbreviation MRC
Formation 1913
Type Non-Departmental Government Body
Purpose Co-ordinating and funding medical research in the United Kingdom
  • Medical Research Council

    2nd Floor David Phillips Building
    Polaris House
    North Star Avenue

    SN2 1FL
Region served
United Kingdom
Chief Executive
Sir John Savill
Donald Brydon CBE
Main organ
MRC Council
Parent organisation
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
Research Councils UK

The Medical Research Council (MRC) is a publicly funded government agency responsible for co-ordinating and funding medical research in the United Kingdom. It is one of seven Research Councils in the UK and is answerable to, although politically independent from, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

The MRC focuses on high-impact research and has provided the financial support and scientific expertise behind a number of medical breakthroughs, including the development of penicillin and the discovery of the structure of DNA. Research funded by the MRC has produced 30 Nobel Prize winners to date.


The MRC was founded as the Medical Research Committee and Advisory Council in 1913,[1] with its prime role being the distribution of medical research funds under the terms of the National Insurance Act 1911. This was a consequence of the recommendation of the Royal Commission on Tuberculosis, which recommended the creation of a permanent medical research body. The mandate was not limited to tuberculosis, however.

In 1920, it became the Medical Research Council under Royal Charter. A supplementary Charter was formally approved by the Queen on 17 July 2003. In March 1933, MRC established the first scientific published medical patrol named British Journal of Clinical Research and Educational Advanced Medicine, as a periodical publication intended to further the progress of science, usually by reporting new research. It contain articles that have been peer reviewed, in an attempt to ensure that articles meet the journal's standards of quality, and scientific validity, allow researchers to keep up to date with the developments of their field and direct their own research.

In August 2012, the creation of the MRC-NIHR Phenome Centre, a research centre for personalised medicine, was announced.[2][3] The MRC-NIHR National Phenome Centre is based at Imperial College London and is a combination of inherited equipment from the anti-doping facilities used to test samples during the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.[2][3] and additional items from the Centre's technology partners Bruker and Waters Corporation. The Centre, led by Imperial College London and King's College London, is funded with two five-year grants of £5 million from the Medical Research Council and the National Institute for Health Research[2][3] and was officially opened in June 2013.[4]

Notable research[edit]

Important work carried out under MRC auspices has included:

Scientists associated with the MRC have received a total of 29 Nobel Prizes, all in either Physiology or Medicine or Chemistry[17]

Organisation and leadership[edit]

The MRC is one of seven Research Councils[18] and since 6 June 2009 has been answerable to, although politically independent from, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.[19] In the past, the MRC has been answerable to the Office of Science and Innovation, part of the Department of Trade and Industry.

The MRC is governed by a council of 14 members, which convenes every two months. Its Council, which directs and oversees corporate policy and science strategy, ensures that the MRC is effectively managed, and makes policy and spending decisions. Council members are drawn from industry, academia, government and the NHS. Members are appointed by the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills. Daily management is in the hands of the Chief Executive. Members of the council also chair specialist boards on specific areas of research. For specific subjects, the council convenes committees.[20]

Chief Executive Officers[edit]

As Chief Executive Officers (originally secretaries) served:

MRC CEOs are normally automatically knighted.[21]


Institutes, centres and units[edit]

The MRC has 27 units and three institutes in the UK and one unit in each of The Gambia and Uganda.[22] It also has 26 centres offering partnerships with UK universities to develop centres of scientific excellence.[22] Three MRC-funded 'lifelong health' research centres were announced in 2008 as part of the Lifelong Health and Wellbeing programme – the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council.[22]

The following is a list of the MRC's current institutes, centres and units:[22]


  • MRC Centre for Medical Mycology at the University of Aberdeen (MRC CMM)




  • MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit at the University of Bristol (MRC IEU)






  • MRC/UVRI Uganda Research Unit on AIDS


  • MRC Unit, The Gambia


  • MRC/Chief Scientist Office Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow (MRC/CSO SPHSU) (based at the University of Glasgow)
  • MRC Institute of Hearing Research (MRC IHR) (based at the University of Glasgow)
  • MRC/University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research (MRC-UoG CVR) (based at the University of Glasgow)


  • MRC Mammalian Genetics Unit (MRC MGU)
  • Research Complex at Harwell (RCaH)







  • MRC Anatomical Neuropharmacology Unit at the University of Oxford (MRC ANU) (based at the University of Oxford)
  • MRC/Cancer Research UK/BHF Clinical Trial Service Unit & Epidemiological Studies Unit (CTSU)
  • CRUK/MRC Oxford Institute for Radiation Oncology (OIRO) (based at the University of Oxford)
  • MRC Centre for Genomics and Global Health (CGGH)
  • MRC Functional Genomics Unit at the University of Oxford (MRC FGU) (based at the University of Oxford)
  • MRC Human Immunology Unit at the University of Oxford (MRC HIU) (based at the University of Oxford)
  • MRC Molecular Haematology Unit at the University of Oxford (MRC MHU) (based at the University of Oxford)



  • MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit at the University of Southampton (MRC LEU)

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ "Records created or inherited by the Medical Research Council". The National Archives. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c "London 2012 legacy to include medical research centre". Times Higher Education. 1 August 2012. Retrieved 1 August 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c "Legacy for anti-doping centre". BBC News. 1 August 2012. Retrieved 1 August 2012. 
  4. ^ "New centre will decipher roles of nature and nurture in human health". Imperial College News and Events. Imperial College London. Retrieved 13 November 2014. 
  5. ^ "Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography: Mellanby, Edward". Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  6. ^ "Social History of Medicine – Uses of a Pandemic: Forging the Identities of Influenza and Virus Research in Interwar Britain". Oxford University Press. 15 December 2011. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  7. ^ Bud, Robert (2007). Penicillin Triumph and Tragedy. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-925406-4. 
  8. ^ Doll, R.; Peto, R.; Boreham, J.; Sutherland, I. (2005). "Mortality from cancer in relation to smoking: 50 years observations on British doctors". British Journal of Cancer. 92 (3): 426–429. doi:10.1038/sj.bjc.6602359. PMC 2362086Freely accessible. PMID 15668706. 
  9. ^ Torsten, Krude; Klug, Aaron (2004). Changing Science and Society (PDF). Cambridge University Press. pp. 3–26. ISBN 0-521-82378-1. 
  10. ^ "The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2003". Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  11. ^ "Therapeutic Antibodies and the LMB". MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology. Archived from the original on 22 December 2012. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  12. ^ Centers for Disease Control (CDC) (1991). "Use of folic acid for prevention of spina bifida and other neural tube defects—1983–1991". MMWR. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 40 (30): 513–516. PMID 2072886. 
  13. ^ Collins, R.; Armitage, J.; Parish, S.; Sleigh, P.; Peto, R.; Heart Protection Study Collaborative Group (2003). "MRC/BHF Heart Protection Study of cholesterol-lowering with simvastatin in 5963 people with diabetes: A randomised placebo-controlled trial". Lancet. 361 (9374): 2005–2016. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(03)13636-7. PMID 12814710. 
  14. ^ "The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2009". Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  15. ^ Loos, R. J. F. (2009). "Recent progress in the genetics of common obesity". British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. 68 (6): 811–829. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2125.2009.03523.x. PMC 2810793Freely accessible. PMID 20002076. 
  16. ^ "Press release: Doctors more than halve local relapse of rectal cancer". 6 March 2009. Archived from the original on 2 May 2013. Retrieved 28 February 2012.  External link in |publisher= (help)
  17. ^ "Nobel Prize Winners". Medical Research Council. Archived from the original on 28 February 2012. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  18. ^ "Governance - Research Councils UK". Research Councils UK. Retrieved 10 October 2017. 
  19. ^ "RCUK: Medical Research Council". Research Councils UK. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  20. ^ "MRC Council". Medical Research Council. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  21. ^ "Angelina Jolie made dame in thousand-strong Queen's birthday honours list". The Guardian. 13 June 2014. Retrieved 14 June 2014. 
  22. ^ a b c d "Units, centres and institutes". Medical Research Council. Archived from the original on 15 June 2011. Retrieved 5 November 2010. 
  23. ^ "Press release: £250 million commitment to UKCMRI". MRC National Institute for Medical Research. 26 March 2010. Archived from the original on 21 June 2011. Retrieved 12 August 2010. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Austoker, Joan, and Linda Bryder, eds. Historical perspectives on the role of the MRC: essays in the history of the Medical Research Council of the United Kingdom and its predecessor, the Medical Research Committee, 1913–1953 (Oxford UP, 1989)
  • Fisher D. "The Rockefeller Foundation and the Development of Scientific Medicine in Britain" Minerva (1987) 16#1, 20–41.
  • Sussex, Jon, et al. "Quantifying the economic impact of government and charity funding of medical research on private research and development funding in the United Kingdom." BMC Medicine 14#1 (2016): 1+
  • Viergever, Roderik F., and Thom CC Hendriks. "The 10 largest public and philanthropic funders of health research in the world: what they fund and how they distribute their funds." Health Research Policy and Systems 14#1 (2016): 1.

External links[edit]

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