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GCRF Call in Networks for Vaccine R&D

Copyright: Jevtic, iStock
Medical Research Council website

Call status: Closed
Previous call: 12 September 2016 – 9 February 2017


The Medical Research Council (MRC) together with the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) are pleased to announce a £8M call for Networks in Vaccines Research and Development.

This call forms part of MRC and BBSRC’s activities under the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) and therefore requires Networks to address vaccine R&D challenges primarily relevant to the health and/or prosperity of countries on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) DAC List. The Networks supported through this call will contribute to the UK’s commitment to Official Development Assistance (ODA).

The call seeks to establish collaborative Networks in areas of vaccine R&D relating to the integration of basic immunology into animal and human vaccinology.

This is a two stage call; an Expression of Interest stage will be assessed in November 2016, and Full Applications invited forward for assessment in March 2017.


Vaccines are one of the most cost-effective health interventions ever developed, preventing millions of deaths worldwide every year. Strong needs remain however to develop new vaccines and improve the effectiveness and efficacy of existing vaccines, for both animal and human diseases.

MRC, BBSRC and EPSRC have been building capacity in the UK in research in novel tools and platform technologies for vaccinology through a cross-Council highlight notice targeting response-mode schemes. We have also been working with the Department for Health as part of the UK Vaccine R&D Network (UKVN), to fund research on vaccines against pandemic threats, so that the UK is better prepared for infectious disease outbreaks. While there are many strengths in vaccines R&D in the UK, important gaps remain, and to enable our research communities to respond to the challenges of developing vaccines for developing countries, the call seeks to address gaps in early discovery and experimental medicine stages.

Ensuring the UK research base remains at the cutting edge of basic science at the very beginning of the pipeline for vaccine R&D, will mean we are less likely to be affected by bottlenecks limiting the supply of novel candidates. Furthermore, strengthening research to better understand, for instance, correlates of immune protection, and correlates of safety and efficacy in response to vaccination will ensure only the safest, most effective and durable candidates are taken into later development stages.

The challenge to the MRC and other RCs to diversify global health research portfolios to benefit the health and wealth of LMIC inhabitants using ODA budget, has afforded a unique and timely opportunity to increase capacity in vaccines R&D and maintain the UK’s position as a competitive and contributory player in the global vaccine space.

The current call seeks to address building capacity and capability by instating Networks that cover a range of themes, and build on and develop existing strengths and collaborations. The Networks aim to bring together groups working in basic immunology and pathogen biology with those active in vaccines R&D, to support discovery-led research to drive development of the next generation of human and animal vaccines.


  • To support Networks focused on vaccine R&D challenges of relevance to countries on the OECD DAC list
  • To encourage interdisciplinary working and to strengthen research capacity and capabilities for vaccines R&D
  • To provide catalyst support for research activities, which could include:
    • Pump-priming for a range of innovative projects addressing the Network’s challenge area
    • Development and sharing of standards, methodologies, and reagents
  • To support collaboration and exchange between researchers in the UK and developing countries and engagement with end-users, stakeholders and policy makers

Remit and scope

The aim is to support a small number of multidisciplinary Networks which foster collaboration, facilitate wider cross-disciplinary integrative participation (including biological, medical, engineering and physical sciences, environmental and social science research where appropriate) and build capability which together will contribute to and underpin the development of novel approaches in vaccines R&D.

Applicants should foremost be addressing vaccines for diseases of importance to developing countries; this includes prophylactic or therapeutic vaccines for diseases with outbreak potential and endemic diseases.

We are prioritising building Networks in areas that would derive the most benefit from this mode of funding. The remit and scope has been informed by several different consultations, including the 2014 MRC review of vaccines research, and with the UKVN who have undertaken a mapping exercise in vaccine R&D; there are some key bottlenecks in the early discovery stages, which affect the pipeline at the very beginning of vaccine R&D. Networks addressing key bottlenecks in pre-clinical discovery R&D have therefore been encouraged around the theme ‘Immunology in Vaccinology’ (IiV), which includes (but is not limited to) the following areas:

  • One health / animal models
  • Comparative immunology and comparative vaccinology
  • Human challenge models
  • Adjuvants
  • Bacterial vaccinology

Though not an exhaustive list, Networks may wish to include some of the following approaches to support the development and use of technologies and capabilities that could be adaptable to a range of settings:

  • Systems approaches to understand complex datasets on the immune repertoire (e.g. immune correlates, high infection burden, lifecourse immunology)
  • Systems vaccinology and reverse vaccinology in silico approaches to understand pathogens and candidate antigens Structural vaccinology – understanding antigen structure
  • Novel vectors, novel routes of administration
  • Vaccine/vaccine component production – novel technologies including synthetic biology and plant-based expression systems
  • Manufacturing – optimisation and development of techniques , kit, resources

The Network launch event aims to explore these science areas and approaches more and seeks input from the community on the areas that will benefit the most from this type of investment.


MRC and BBSRC have ring-fenced up to £8M for this call, with a view to funding a small number of multidisciplinary Networks for up to £2M each and up to four years in duration focusing on clearly articulated challenges relating to the early research and development of developing country relevant vaccines.

How to apply

This call is closed to applications. MRC are administering this call.

For further details about the call and how to apply please refer to the MRC website: MRC: GCRF Call in Networks for Vaccine R&D

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