GCRF: Networks in vector borne disease research Call for Interest


The Medical Research Council (MRC) and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 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 multidisciplinary Networks addressing challenges relating to VBD of plants, animals and humans

This call forms part of MRC’s and BBSRC’s activities under the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) 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 (the list of ODA recipient countries is available at www.oecd.org/dac/stats/documentupload/DAC List of ODA Recipients 2014 final.pdf (PDF)opens in new window.  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 and the economic impact of Rift.

Outbreaks of African casava mosaic virusopens in new window in East and Central Africa are estimated to be responsible for losses of between US$ 1.9 – 2.7 billion and the economic impact of Rift Valley feveropens in new window outbreaks has been estimated to be between US$5-$470 million. 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 yearopens in new window. Distribution of these diseases is determined by a complex dynamic of biological, environmental and social factors. Global changesopens in new window 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 and spread of VBDopens in new window from their traditional geographic range, as recently exemplified by the Zika outbreak.

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

This call for Networks in VBD Research 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.

Call information

The aims of the call for Networks in VBD Research 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 in developing countries and engagement with end-users, stakeholders and policy makers.



The funders aim to support multidisciplinary 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.

To facilitate networking and open discussion of Network ideas, the funders have created an extranet site which will provide access to details of individuals interested in leading, or joining, potential Networks and a discussion board on which ideas for potential Networks can be posted and receive input from the community. The extranet site will also host the launch meeting presentations. To register you interest in joining the extranet please emailGCRFNetVect@bbsrc.ac.uk

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 3 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. Applicants are not required to provide a detailed justification of resources in the Expression of Interest. However, applicants should describe why a Network of the proposed scale is justified. Further information about eligible costs is available in the ‘call guidance’ document (PDF, 55KB).

For more information, please visit the website at http://www.mrc.ac.uk/funding/browse/gcrf-networks-in-vector-borne-disease-research-call-for-expressions-of-interest/