We support bold and creative discovery research that has the potential to improve human life, health and wellbeing.
As Discovery Research announces its first cohort of awardees under the new award schemes, and Mental Health launches several new funding calls, we wanted to take the opportunity to clarify the funding opportunities for neuroscience and mental health researchers under Wellcome’s new strategy.
Wellcome has long supported basic research into understanding the function and dysfunction of the brain and nervous system, funding a broad range of neuroscience and mental health projects, from molecular and cellular neurobiology to cognitive and computational neurosciences.
We currently have an active neuroscience and mental health portfolio totalling £600 million. This consists of investments in individuals and teams of researchers through our funding schemes, large-scale multidisciplinary collaborations, and strategic investments.
Wellcome’s new strategy involves funding curiosity-driven research undertaken in various disciplines – from STEM to social sciences and everything in between – through our Discovery Research funding schemes.
Separate streams of funding have been set up to tackle three urgent health challenges: Mental Health, Infectious Diseases, and Climate and Health. Neuroscience and mental health researchers can apply for Wellcome funding through both our Discovery Research funding schemes and/or curated funding calls from the Mental Health team.
What funding is available through Discovery Research?
Discovery Research is our term for studies, across multiple disciplines, that lead to new knowledge and insights into life, health, and wellbeing. Our funding continues to be open to research in any discipline related to human health and wellbeing, but through a simplified set of three funding schemes.
Larger and longer grants are available and are designed to provide the security and flexibility that encourages creative and bold projects.
Our Discovery Research funding schemes continue to be open to neuroscience researchers investigating the fundamental processes that underpin the structure, function and/or dysfunction of the nervous system at all levels of analysis – from the molecular to the cognitive – across the lifespan and in different model systems. We are also interested in proposals that explore the complexities of the human brain and behaviour in health and disease, including clinical approaches.
Alongside this, we support researchers who are developing new tools, technologies, or methods that could improve our understanding of the brain.
Our Discovery Research schemes remain open to mental health researchers across the breadth of mental health science. Importantly, however, applications to Discovery Research do not need to align with the strategic focus of Wellcome’s Mental Health funding programme.
To give a sense of the exciting breadth of neuroscience we support, we are thrilled to announce our first cohort of grantees under our new Discovery Research award schemes.
This includes researchers like Professor Randy Bruno, who will use his Discovery Award to combine sensory discrimination tasks in mice with cutting-edge approaches for manipulating, recording, imaging, and analysing neuronal populations to investigate how cortical circuitry flexibly performs multiple tasks.
It also includes neurologist Dr Rimona Weil, a Career Development Award grantee who will use novel approaches and the latest brain imaging technology to understand the processes that cause dementia in Parkinson's disease.
In addition to our awards schemes, Discovery Research also funds strategic investments. For the neuroscience community, our investments include large-scale collaborations, like the International Brain Laboratory – a coalition of experimental and theoretical neuroscientists collaborating to understand brainwide circuits for complex behaviour.
We also invest in tools and technology development, like that of Neuropixels – super-sensitive neural recording devices that have revolutionised the way we study the brain. And we foster stakeholder engagement initiatives – like the Showcasing African Neuroscience meeting and report – to reach diverse new research communities.
What funding is available through Mental Health?
We are already funding some exciting neuroscience-based projects under the Mental Health remit. This includes Professor Simon Ward’s development of small molecule therapeutics for the treatment of cognitive impairment associated with schizophrenia. And we’re supporting the Accelerated Medicines Partnership project in Schizophrenia, which will use neuroimaging, among other measures.
We have also launched three funding calls within our new strategy that are open to neuroscience researchers, including one to develop and evaluate interventions to improve cognitive functioning in psychosis, and one to investigate changes in sleep and circadian function in relation to mental health. For the third call, we are currently in the process of selecting the awardees who will help us better understand how effective interventions work for anxiety, depression, and psychosis, with many projects involving neuroscience methods and questions having been shortlisted.
We plan to launch more funding calls of relevance to the neuroscience community in the coming months. These calls will likely include funding for studies examining how mental health problems develop, as well as improved stratification approaches to these mental health challenges.
We want to drive a transformative change in the ability to intervene as early as possible in the course of anxiety, depression, and psychosis, broadly defined, to prevent these problems holding people back in life.
Reviewing your applications
Funding a mix of curiosity-driven research and challenge-led activities remains at the heart of what we do at Wellcome.
We rely on you – the research community – to present exciting opportunities for breakthroughs when you apply for our funding, and we welcome proposals with unusual and bold approaches.
We hope to review more of your neuroscience applications to our Discovery Research and Mental Health funding opportunities in the future.