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GCRF: Networks in Vector Borne Disease Research

Copyright: Erik Karits/Thinkstock
Medical Research Council website

Call status: Closed
Previous call: 14 September 2016 - 16 February 2017


The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and Medical Research Council (MRC) are pleased to announce a call for community building Networks in Vector Borne Disease (VBD) Research. The funders have earmarked up to a total of £9 million for this call and aim to support a number of interdisciplinary Networks addressing challenges relating to VBD of plants, animals and humans.

This call forms part of BBSRC’s and MRC’s activities under the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) (see related links) and therefore requires Networks to address VBD challenges primarily relevant to the health or prosperity of Countries on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) DAC List (see external links). The Networks supported through this call will contribute to the UK Government's commitment to Official Development Assistance (ODA).


VBD of plants, animals and humans reduce agricultural productivity, affect human health and disrupt ecosystems throughout the world. These diseases profoundly restrict socioeconomic status and development in countries with the highest rate of infection, many of which are located in the tropics and subtropics.

Outbreaks of African casava mosaic virus in East and Central Africa are estimated to be responsible for losses of between US$1.9-2.7 billion (ref 1) and the economic impact of Rift Valley fever outbreaks has been estimated to be between US$5-$470 million (ref 2). VBD accounts for more than 17% of all human infectious diseases, causing more than 1 million deaths annually. More than 2.5 billion people in over 100 countries are at risk of contracting dengue fever and malaria causes more than 600,000 deaths every year (ref 3). Distribution of these diseases is determined by a complex dynamic of biological, environmental and social factors. Global changes in livestock production practices, increased urbanisation, deforestation and globalisation, have resulted in a global re-emergence of epidemic VBD affecting plants, animals and humans over the last 30 years (ref 4, ref 5) and spread of VBD from their traditional geographic range, as recently exemplified by the Zika outbreak.

While much research has focused on the pathogen there has been less attention focused on the vectors of disease. With increasing resistance of vectors to chemical insecticides new methods of vector control are urgently required.

This call has been informed by a recent BBSRC-led survey of the UK VBD Research, Training and Infrastructure landscape, which identified the following five key research priorities for the next 5-10 years:

  • Development of new control strategies for VBD in particular non-chemical vector control methods such as genetic control
  • Increased understanding of fundamental vector biology and vector ecology
  • Understanding what is driving the emergence and expansion of VBDs
  • Increased understanding of vector pathogen interactions
  • Improved diagnostics, surveillance and forecasting.

In addition, the survey highlighted a number of important capability gaps in areas such as vector biology, entomology and taxonomy.


The aims of the call are:

  • To support a number of complementary community Networks focused on VBD challenges of relevance to countries on the OECD DAC list
  • To encourage interdisciplinary working and to strengthen research capacity, capabilities and methodologies particularly focused on the vectors of disease
  • To provide resources to support pump-priming funding for a range of innovative projects identified by the Networks ultimately leading to more competitive, collaborative, cross-disciplinary and integrative research proposals
  • To support collaboration between researchers in the UK and LMICs and engagement with end-users, stakeholders and policy makers.


The funders aim to support interdisciplinary community Networks which will foster collaboration, facilitate wider cross-disciplinary integrative participation (including where appropriate environmental and social science research) and build capability which together will contribute to and underpin the development of novel strategies to control VBD of plants, animals and humans.

The primary focus of each Network must fall within the remit of at least one of the funders and should be addressing a challenge(s) relevant to VBD of plants, animals or humans where the disease vectors are either arthropods (including but not limited to mosquitoes, tsetse flies, sand flies, ticks, midges, aphids and whiteflies) or snails, other disease vectors are not within the scope of this call.

The Networks are a unique opportunity to draw together individuals from a broad range of scientific disciplines to foster knowledge exchange, methodological/technological sharing and facilitate learning. Network applications that seek funding to support business as usual activities/partnerships are unlikely to fair well at the assessment stage.

While the funders do not wish to be prescriptive and are encouraging applicants to take a creative approach to building community Networks the following activities are not within the scope of the call:

  • Closed Networks - the purpose of the call is to support the development of ‘open’ community Networks. Networks which are composed of a small fixed number of individuals which do not articulate a clear plan for encouraging and building wider membership as the community matures will not be considered under this call
  • Standard research proposals - this call is not intended to support standard research proposals these should be submitted to Responsive Mode or other appropriate schemes.

Network management, membership and activities

Each Network will be led by a Network Director (Principal Investigator [PI]) who can be assisted by one Network Co-Director (Co-Investigator [CoI]). It is expected that the day-to-day management of each Network will be undertaken by a suitably qualified Network Manager. Further details are available in the call guidance document.

Each Network will be expected to include members from countries on the OECD DAC list and have membership from a range of relevant academic disciplines including biological, medical, mathematical, chemical, environmental, economic and social sciences. Networks should also seek to engage stakeholders, end-users and policy makers.

Networks should include a range of activities and mechanisms to deliver the aims of the call. Detailed plans for the governance structure, including the development, assessment and monitoring of pump-priming funding will be an essential component of the Expression of Interest and full proposal. Further details are available in the call guidance document.


BBSRC and MRC have earmarked up to a total of £9 million for this call and expect to support, dependent on scale and quality, ~6 multidisciplinary Networks for up to three years in duration focusing on clearly articulated challenges relevant to VBD of plants, animal and humans.

Applications should not exceed £2 million (100% Full Economic Costing [FEC]).

Applicants should apply for a ’core’ component to cover appropriate salary and Network activities/event costs and a ’pump-priming’ component to cover the cost of pump-priming innovative research which addresses the VBD challenge identified by the Network


The GCRF is a new five year, £1.5 billion resource funding stream, announced as part of the 2015 spending review, to ensure that UK research takes a leading role in addressing the problems faced by developing countries. The GCRF will deploy the UK’s world-class research capability to address the challenges faced by the developing world. The GCRF forms part of the UK’s ODA activities which are monitored by the OECD. Further information about the GCRF is available from the RCUK website (see external links).

All activities funded through the GCRF Networks in VBD Research will form part of the UK’s ODA activities. Therefore, Network proposals should clearly demonstrate how the primary purpose of the proposed Network will be to promote the economic development and welfare of a country or countries on the OECD’s DAC list of ODA recipients (see external links). Information about ODA compliance for GCRF applications is available in the RCUK guidance document (see external links).

Please note that it is anticipated that Antigua & Barbuda, Chile, Uruguay, Argentina and Venezuela will graduate from the DAC list in 2017. Please refer to the frequently asked questions document for further information about how this change may impact applications.


BBSRC is the lead research council for this call. As such, standard BBSRC eligibility criteria apply for PIs and CoIs. For detailed guidance, please see section three of the BBSRC grants guide (see downloads).

If you have any queries about eligibility please contact

Applications must be submitted by UK Research Organisations that are eligible to receive funding from BBSRC. Information about eligible organisations is available on the RCUK website (see external links).

How to apply

This call is closed to applications.

There is a two stage application and assessment process: Expressions of Interest and full proposals.

Expressions of Interest

The Expression of Interest phase has closed.

Full proposals

Application to the full proposal stage is by invitation only. Applications to the full stage submitted without prior approval following the Expression of Interest stage, will not be allowed.

Applicants invited to proceed to the full proposal stage should draw on any feedback and generic guidance provided to them.

Information about the documents that should be included in the application is available in the call guidance document.

Applications should be submitted through the Joint electron submission system (Je-S) by 16 February 2017, 4pm (see external links).

Applicants should select the following from the Je-S menus:

  • Select Council: BBSRC
  • Select Document Type: Standard Proposal
  • Select Scheme: Standard
  • Select Call/Type/Mode: GCRF Networks in Vector Borne Disease Research

BBSRC is leading on the administration of this call, on behalf the funders. Applicants should refer to the BBSRC grants guide and Je-S help text for further information.

Applications which include multiple institutions must be submitted on a single Je-S proforma. Applications submitted on multiple forms will not be accepted.

All proposals must indicate a start date no later than 1 July 2017 and will be required to start by this date.


The full proposals will be assessed by Panel alone (there will be no external peer review) and may involve the use of an interview between the Panel and the PI and any CoI. Applicants should make sure that they are available to attend a possible interview on 31 March 2017.

Assessment criteria

Key assessment criteria will include:

  • The VBD challenge to be addressed and the strength of the proposed approach to tackle the challenge
  • The strength of the approach to meet the aims of the GCRF Networks in VBD Research call
  • Particular significance will be placed on a robust and appropriate governance structure and pump-priming fund allocation mechanism
  • The Panel will recommend proposals based on the above criteria while ensuring a broad portfolio of Networks.


Launch meeting registration deadline 19 August 2016
Launch meeting and networking event 14 September 2016
Call for written Expressions of Interest opens 14 September 2016
Expression of Interest deadline 3 November 2016, 4pm
Call for full proposals opens (invite only) 12 December 2016
Full proposal deadline (invite only) 16 February 2017
Latest start date 1 July 2017


  1. Legg et al., (2006) Casava mosaic virus disease in East and Central Africa: epidemiology and management of a regional pandemic. Adv. Virus. Res. 67, 355-418.
  2. Peyre et al (2014) A systematic scoping study of the socio-economic impact of Rift Valley fever: research gaps and needs. Zoonoses and Public Health 62, 309-325.
  4. Medlock, J. and Leach, S.A. (2015) Effect of climate change on vector borne disease risk in the UK. The Lancet 15, 721-730.
  5. (PDF) .


GCRF: Networks in Vector Borne Disease Research

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