Deadline: 1 April 2021
Building on the initial calls of their Initiative, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), through the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) have jointly launched a rolling call for proposals for rapid research into COVID-19.
For UK-led academic, SME and wider industry research that will address a wide range of COVID-19 knowledge gaps/needs, and which will lead to a benefit in UK, potentially international, public health within 12 months.
Research to understand the disease, prevent, treat and control it will be critical for mitigating the severity of the COVID-19 outbreak. Rapid progress in addressing this epidemic will depend upon a coherent and integrated response from researchers, industry, the healthcare system and the public.
Short term (up to 12 month) proposals are sought. All proposals will need to be able to show how progress within the period of award could make a significant contribution to the understanding, prevention and/or management of the COVID-19 outbreak. The research scope of this call is as below:
- Virology, Immunity and Pathophysiology – Research as part of an experimental medicine and/or clinical study focused on defining critical biological/pathological parameters necessary for the prioritisation of preventative, supportive and/or therapeutic interventions.
- Diagnostics – Rapid point of care diagnostics for use at the community level. Proposals will need to robustly justify their added value, in the context of significant existing activity, and to provide strong evidence in terms of deliverability and route to commercialisation, at scale and speed.
- Transmission – Research that will enable better understanding of the nature of transmission of and exposure to the virus, including via surfaces and aerosols.
- Disease Susceptibility and Severity – Understanding susceptibility of different populations (age, sex, ethnicity, demographics, underlying health conditions, etc), including vulnerable and marginalised groups, such as the homeless and drug users. Characterization of the spectrum of clinical manifestations and disease severity of SARS-CoV2 infections, including potential contribution of viral load, kinetics and genotype, sites of infection and associated immunopathology, variability in immune responses, collateral tissue damage, and associated factors (demographics, etc.).
- Control and Mitigation – Research to understand social distancing measures that are most effective at preventing or reducing spread of SARS-CoV2, and how such distancing and isolation measures may be most effectively relaxed. With comparative studies particularly welcomed.
- IPC and PPE – Studies to optimize use of personal protective equipment and other infection prevention and control measures in health care and community settings.
- Public Health, Media and Communication– research to better understand how to enhance and implement acceptability of and adherence to management, IPC and public health measures, and simultaneously how to minimize stigma and prejudice. This being essential for putting evidence-based measures into practice.
- Public Health– including what are relevant, feasible, effective approaches to promote acceptance, uptake, and adherence to public health measures for COVID-19 prevention and control, and how secondary impacts, including mental health, social isolation and domestic violence, can be rapidly identified and mitigated, including special attention to vulnerable groups.
- Media and communication– Studies into and implementation of the most effective ways to address the underlying drivers of fear, anxieties, rumours, stigma regarding COVID-19, and how to improve public knowledge, awareness, and trust during the response, including strategies to combat misinformation. Studies into the potential benefits of increased use of digital technology, for both communication and data capture.
- Clinical Management – Rapid assessments of available data from studies to learn what standards of care are the most effective for patients at different stages of the disease, including effective triage, and taking advantage of all available technological innovations to improve survival and recovery.
- Primary, Adjunctive and Supportive Therapies– Evaluation of the effect of primary, adjunctive and supportive therapies, including immune modulators. Proposals will need to be placed in the context of work already underway in this area, including as listed in the WHO directory of clinical trials.
- Vaccines– Evaluation of investigational vaccines and passive immunological approaches, improved collaboration and comparison across different studies. Proposals will need to robustly justify their case for funding, given significant existing international activity in this area.
- Health and Care Delivery
- Research which requires the real time pandemic context for delivery of the proposed study design.
- Evaluation of innovations in health and social care delivery prompted by the pandemic, which can be generalised and actioned in the pandemic context.
- Evaluation of implementation, acceptability and feasibility of workforce interventions to support physical and mental health wellbeing.
- Evaluation of different approaches to resource use and deployment of the workforce across the whole health and social care eco-system.
- Research to support ensuring and optimising access to health and social care services by people from different sociodemographic groups and ethnic groups.
- Assays and Animal Models – Development of assays and animal models required to support the development of therapeutics and vaccines. Proposals will need to be placed in the context of work already funded in this area.
- Provision Infrastructure – Platforms supporting sharing of information, reagents, tools, protocols and standards. Proposals will need to be placed in the context of work already funded in this area.
The size of grants will vary according to the needs of each research project but will need to provide a robust case for value for money.
Proposals are anticipated to be short term studies of up to 12 months. All proposals will need to be able to show how progress within the period of award could make a valuable contribution to the understanding, diagnosis, prevention and/or management of the COVID-19 outbreak, with data and tools/reagents generated under this call to be made widely available.
- Academic Principal Investigators applying for this call must be hosted by a UK institution which is eligible for UKRI funding.
- Applications from Small and Medium Enterprises (including start-up or ‘spin-out’ companies), government arms length bodies, and NHS organisations (including NHS Trusts and NHS Foundation Trusts), and equivalent UK authorities are also encouraged in alignment with NIHR funding policies, where these organisations are the lead applicant.
- Awards to UK-based, non-SME commercial entities will be also considered. Specialist services or expertise may be brought into the team through consultancy or sub-contract arrangements, however, appropriate justification must be provided. Sub-contractors and collaborators (who are partners in the bid but not directly funded by it) may be based outside of the UK.
- Researchers from overseas research organisations in affected countries providing important local engagement and context are welcomed as Co-Investigators on proposals. Other overseas researchers may be Co-Investigators, if they provide necessary expertise/access to resources not available in the UK.
- Research institutes, including UKRI Units/Institutes, for which the Research Councils have established a long-term involvement as major funder are also eligible for this call.
- Principal Investigators may only submit and have under review one application at a time to this rolling call as a Principal Investigator, but may be involved in more applications, if listed as a Co-Investigator. Applicants, whether as Principal or Co-Investigator, may not submit the same or similar application(s) as made to the Initiative’s first two calls or previously to this rolling call, or to the UKRI rolling call.
- Studies should preferably build on existing relationships, including with relevant commercial, practice or policy partners and relevant data/resource holders. Interdisciplinary proposals are welcomed, where appropriate.
- Proposals must be timely, with rapid activation, to enable early and valuable outcomes to be established and/or to access time-dependent resources.
Proposals will be reviewed firstly by members of a college of experts, chosen based on the subject matter of the proposal. These reviews will then be used by an Expert Panel, who will make recommendations on outcome to UKRI and DHSC. Applicants will not have an opportunity to respond to Panel comments in instances where feedback is provided, except where clarifications and/or changes are required as part of the award process.
Key assessment criteria for the submissions will include:
- The potential for the proposal to have an impact the within the period of the award and to provide a unique value-adding contribution relative to existing activity
- Access to required resources
- Applicant expertise and experience
- Partnership: including strength and clarity of collaborations and opportunities provided
- Design and feasibility of project plan
- Value for money
- Alignment with WHO-Roadmap priorities
The decisions of the Panel will not be open to appeal and the funders reserve the right to amend the application process.
For more information, visit https://mrc.ukri.org/funding/browse/ukri-nihr-covid-19/ukri-nihr-covid-19-rolling-call/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery