Our research strategy
Our strategy sets out clear reasons why Meningitis Now funds research and describes the research priorities that have been identified. It provides our Scientific and Medical Advisory Panel (SMAP) and staff with a clear set of objectives with which to evaluate funding applications and research impact. As a member of the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC), this strategy also helps ensure that we work to recognised standards of best practice and within the AMRC’s guidelines.
The strategy will be reviewed every five years to ensure that it continues to meet the needs of the charity and its stakeholders and remains relevant in the context of the wider research environment.
Why we fund research
Meningitis Now is working towards a future where no-one in the UK loses their life to meningitis and everyone affected gets the support they need to rebuild their lives.
The charity, and its predecessor organisations, have long funded scientific and medical research into meningitis. In many cases, this research has demonstrably advanced the charity’s aims and objectives, by hastening and improving the development and deployment of vaccines, and by improving scientific and medical understanding of meningitis, its causes, treatment, after-effects and impact.
In recent decades there have been many important advances in the prevention and treatment of meningitis, and this has been accompanied by a decline in the number of cases, particularly in recent years. Despite this, new cases of disease are still causing death and disability each year, and many others continue to live with the life-long impact.
The charity therefore wishes to continue to fund high quality research, the aim of which will be to assist the charity to deliver its two over-riding goals:
- Saving lives and preventing disability through improving prevention, early diagnosis and treatment;
- Rebuilding futures and improving quality of life through increased recognition of the impact of meningitis and provision of timely, effective support.
What research priorities have been identified and why
In the past, the charity has primarily funded research related to the prevention and ultimate eradication of the disease. Whilst this remains important and supports the charity’s vision of no-one in the UK losing their life to meningitis, there are several other important areas of research to explore, particularly those related to supporting people affected by the disease to rebuild their lives.
After consultation with stakeholders, health professionals and experts, the following areas of meningitis research have been identified:
- Improving prevention;
- Improving the speed and accuracy of diagnosis;
- Improving treatment;
- Improving understanding of the physical, sensory and cognitive after-effects of meningitis, particularly in adults;
- Improving understanding of the financial, psychological, social, emotional and educational impact of meningitis on individuals and their families.
These points can be summarised as research aiming to improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of meningitis and increase understanding of its impact on those affected. In highlighting these specific areas, the aim is to broaden the scope of the charity’s research programme, to take account of the changing disease landscape and the impact this is having on the profile and needs of beneficiaries.
Any research funded by Meningitis Now needs to have the potential to improve knowledge and understanding of the disease, improve public health, impact clinical practice and/or behaviour, or answer questions that provoke further translational research.
How we plan to fund research
In line with AMRC guidelines, Meningitis Now has previously operated response mode funding research grant rounds, in which established research groups from the UK are invited to submit a funding application based on their own research ideas related to the broad issues/topics identified from the charity’s research strategy. Following peer review and consideration by an advisory panel, funding is awarded based on the quality of the science.
In future, the charity will adopt a more flexible approach to funding research, by deploying different methods of allocating funds according to the research question or topic at hand. In some cases, the charity will continue to allocate grants using the response mode funding method. In other cases, the charity will adopt an alternative approach to funding, by implementing a commissioned research framework to answer specific questions that address the needs of the charity and its beneficiaries. This approach allows Meningitis Now to use its research strategy to identify important areas of research that aim to address its vision and deliver its goals. It is particularly relevant, but not exclusive, to understanding the impact of meningitis on individuals and families so that Meningitis Now can become a centre of expertise for aftercare and support. As with response mode funding, competitive applications from prospective research teams will be sought. These will be subject to peer review, and consideration by an advisory panel will inform decisions on funding awards.