Medical Research Council (United Kingdom)

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Medical Research Council
TypeNon-Departmental Government Body
PurposeCo-ordinating and funding medical research in the United Kingdom
Region served
United Kingdom
Executive Chair
Patrick Chinnery
Main organ
MRC Council
Parent organisation
UK Research and Innovation Edit this at Wikidata

The Medical Research Council (MRC) is responsible for co-coordinating and funding medical research in the United Kingdom. It is part of United Kingdom Research and Innovation (UKRI), which came into operation 1 April 2018, and brings together the UK's seven research councils, Innovate UK and Research England. UK Research and Innovation is answerable to, although politically independent from, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

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 32 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 Commissions 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 and Care Research (NIHR)[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 32 Nobel Prizes, all in either Physiology or Medicine or Chemistry[17]

Organisation and leadership[edit]

The MRC is one of seven Research Councils[18] that are part of UK Research and Innovation, in turn part of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.[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 advised by a 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, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Daily management is in the hands of the Executive Chair. Members of the council also chair specialist boards on specific areas of research. For specific subjects, the council convenes committees.[20]


Chief Executives[edit]

As Chief Executives (originally secretaries) served:

Executive Chairs[edit]

Following the formation of UK Research and Innovation, the Executive Chair role replaced the Chief Executive Officer role, and has been held by:

  • 2018–2022: Professor Fiona Watt
  • 2022-2023 (interim post): Professor Sir John Iredale
  • 2023-present: Professor Patrick Chinnery[21]

MRC CEOs are normally automatically knighted.[22]

Institutes, centres and units[edit]

The MRC has units, centres and institutes in the UK and one unit in each of The Gambia and Uganda.[23]

The following is a list of the MRC's current institutes, centres and units:[23]








  • MRC/UVRI Uganda Research Unit on AIDS


  • MRC Unit, The Gambia[25]


  • MRC/Chief Scientist Office Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow (MRC/CSO SPHSU) [26]
  • MRC/University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research [27](MRC-UofG CVR)



  • MRC/Arthritis Research UK Centre for Integrated Research into Muscular Aging
  • MRC Centre for Drug Safety Science (based at the University of Liverpool)




  • CRUK/MRC Oxford Institute for Radiation Oncology (OIRO) (based at the University of Oxford)
  • MRC Brain Network Dynamics Unit at the University of Oxford
  • MRC Human Immunology Unit at the University of Oxford (MRC HIU)
  • MRC Molecular Haematology Unit at the University of Oxford (MRC MHU)
  • MRC Population Health Research Unit at the University of Oxford
  • MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine (based at the University of Oxford)


  • Centre for Macaques


  • Arthritis Research UK/MRC Centre for Musculoskeletal Health and Work
  • MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit at the University of Southampton (MRC LEU)

Multiple across UK

  • Health Data Research UK (Central management at Wellcome Trust, London)
  • UK Dementia Research Institute (Central management at UCL)

See also[edit]

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. 5 June 2013. 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. p. 43. 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 2362086. PMID 15668706.
  9. ^ Torsten, Krude; Klug, Aaron (2004). Changing Science and Society. 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. S2CID 28111189.
  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 2810793. 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.
  17. ^ "Nobel Prize Winners". Medical Research Council. Archived from the original on 28 February 2012. Retrieved 28 February 2012.
  18. ^ "Governance and structure – UK Research and Innovation". Research Councils UK. Retrieved 10 October 2017.
  19. ^ "UKRI: Councils". Research Councils UK. Retrieved 28 February 2012.
  20. ^ "MRC Council". Medical Research Council. Retrieved 28 February 2012.
  21. ^
  22. ^ "Angelina Jolie made dame in thousand-strong Queen's birthday honours list". The Guardian. 13 June 2014. Retrieved 14 June 2014.
  23. ^ a b "Units, centres and institutes". Medical Research Council. Retrieved 12 April 2018.
  24. ^ "Liver Study Offers Insights into Hard-to-treat Diseases" (Press release). University of Edinburgh. 9 March 2018. Retrieved 9 March 2018 – via Drug Discovery & Development.
  25. ^ "MRC Unit The Gambia". Retrieved 7 January 2021.
  26. ^ "University of Glasgow – Research Institutes – Institute of Health & Wellbeing – Research – MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit". Retrieved 24 September 2021.
  27. ^ "University of Glasgow – Research Institutes – Institute of Infection, Immunity & Inflammation – MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research". Retrieved 24 September 2021.

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]