Understanding health and disease

We support researchers across the world exploring fundamental questions about health and disease.

These questions are wide-ranging – from how our brains function, to how infections like HIV and TB are spread, to how our experience of disease is affected by gender and ethnicity.

Biomedical science research 

We want to understand the processes underpinning life, and what happens when those processes go wrong.

Our areas of research include:

  • genetics, genomics and molecular biology: understanding how genes, proteins and other molecules work together to perform the functions of life and what happens when these functions go wrong
  • infectious disease and the immune system: from endemic and epidemic infections, such as malaria and Zika, to the role of the immune system in health and disease
  • cell and developmental biology: how cells function and interact with their environment, and how organisms form, grow and develop
  • physiology and non-communicable disease: how the human body works, and the mechanisms of diseases such as diabetes, obesity and stroke
  • neuroscience and mental health: understanding the brain and mind, and investigating conditions such as dementia, depression and schizophrenia.

See a list of our funding schemes that support biomedical science research.

How we fund

Most of our funding in biomedical science and population health goes to individuals and teams asking questions which have the potential to address a major health need.

We increase the impact of this funding by supporting:

Population health research 

We want to understand the causes and consequences of health and disease in populations. We also want to determine how good health and poor health are distributed through populations. 

Population health involves researchers from many different disciplines, such as epidemiologists, demographers, health economists and sociologists.

Our areas of research include:

  • studying how infectious diseases are distributed and transmitted in populations
  • supporting longitudinal population studies, which follow individuals over long periods of time
  • improving healthcare systems and education
  • helping translate research into real-world changes that improve people's lives.

See a list of our funding schemes that support population health research.

One of our priority areas is Our Planet, Our Health. It supports research into how we’re changing our environment and how these changes affect our health.

Humanities and social science research 

Science research alone can’t always improve people’s health. Social, historical, ethical and cultural factors also shape how people experience health.

We support research in humanities and social science, spanning a wide range of disciplines and using diverse methods to investigate a mind-blowing breadth of topics.

We encourage collaboration and the sharing of ideas. By working together, humanities and social science researchers, healthcare professionals and scientists can find new ways to think about health and overcome challenges.

See a list of our funding schemes that support humanities and social science research.

How we support research careers 

We work in many ways to support careers in research. For example, we promote good research practice, work towards a more diverse research culture and provide flexible career opportunities.

Find out more about how we support research careers.