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, 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 August 2012, the creation of the MRC-NIHR Phenome Centre, a research centre for personalised medicine, was announced. The centre will be based at GlaxoSmithKline's research and development facility in Harlow, Essex, inheriting the anti-doping facilities used to test samples during the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The centre will be led by Imperial College London and will be funded with two five-year grants of £5 million from the Medical Research Council and the National Institute for Health Research.
Dr Venki Ramakrishnan of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology winning the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2009 for showing how ribosomes, the tiny protein-making factories inside cells, function at the atomic level;
the discovery that early treatment of HIV-infected babies with anti-retroviral therapy can dramatically increase their chances of survival;
the development of a test for detecting infectious prions on surgical instruments which is more accurate than previous tests and 100 times faster;
the identification of the second ever genetic variant associated with obesity; and
the finding that high quality surgery combined with a short course of radiotherapy can halve the rate of recurrence of colorectal cancer.
Scientists associated with the MRC have received a total of 29 Nobel Prizes, all in either Physiology or Medicine or Chemistry
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.
The MRC has 27 units and three institutes in the UK and one unit in each of The Gambia and Uganda. It also has 26 centres offering partnerships with UK universities to develop centres of scientific excellence. 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.
The following is a list of the MRC's current institutes, centres and units:
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