Journal of IiME Volume 1 Issue 1 The Strategy of the Medical Research Council for Research on CFS/ME By Professor Colin Blakemore Chief Executive, Medical research Council The development of MRC’s CFS/ME Strategy Following the publication of the Report of the Chief Medical Officer’s Independent Working Group in 2002, the MRC convened a CFS/ME Research Advisory Group (the Membership and Terms of Reference of which appear in Annex 1 below). This Group was asked to advise the MRC on a broad strategy for advancing biomedical and health services research on CFS/ME. The Advisory Group met three times between September 2002 and March 2003, and also undertook a consultation exercise, in July and August 2002, using a set of structured questions. The results were independently analysed by the NHS Public Health Resource Unit, Oxford. The lay members of the MRC CFS/ME Research Advisory Group met with ME charities, CFS/ME patients and their carers, in order to improve understanding of their perspectives. A preliminary draft research strategy was made available to key stakeholders, as well as national and international researchers, for external, open consultation. It was also considered by the MRC Research Boards between December 2002 and February 2003. The preliminary draft research strategy was revised by the MRC CFS/ME Research Advisory Group in the light of the results of this consultation, and the final version was presented to the governing body of the MRC, its Council, in March 2003. In May 2003 the MRC published the report of the independent Research Advisory Group. The report can be viewed or downloaded from the MRC website: (http://www.mrc.ac.uk/Utilities/Documentrecord/inde x.htm?d=MRC003412). The Research Advisory Group agreed that the research community should be encouraged to develop high-quality research proposals addressing key issues for CFS/ME research in areas that were considered amenable for study at the present time. In particular, the Group drew attention to the potential for progress in certain areas, for instance in research that addresses: • • the understanding of symptomatology improved case-definition • new approaches to management. Invest in ME Charity Nr 1114035 21 Invest in ME had invited Professor Blakemore to speak at the IiME International ME/CFS conference but unfortunately he was not able to make it. The MRC were invited to send another speaker, and were offered the chance to send representatives to attend as delegates, but these offers were also declined. The MRC CFS/ME Research Advisory Group concluded that there is probably a multiplicity of potential causal factors for CFS/ME and they reviewed the widely disparate results of research so far reported in the scientific literature concerning the biological basis of the condition. They concluded that, as in many other areas of medical progress, valuable treatments might be developed and tested, even if there is not a full understanding of the triggers and causal pathways that lead to CFS/ME. Therefore, the Advisory Group recommended to the MRC that the most likely route to rapid help for patients was through support for research on interventions for CFS/ME, even while there remains incomplete knowledge of its causes and underlying pathogenesis. This recommendation does not debar the consideration of applications exploring the mechanism and aetiology of the condition, if high-quality proposals can be developed. The MRC does not normally set aside specific amounts of money for particular illnesses, not (continued on page 22) www.investinme.org

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