$2.1M Investment is UK’s ‘biggest ever investment into physical causes of ME/CFS’

Written by the CureME team at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

The CureME team at The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine is delighted to announce the award of $2.1m (£1.57m) of grant funding from the United States National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The grant will fund a longitudinal study that will measure changes in the immune system and genetic profile of individuals with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS).

The new award is a renewal of an initial project, which began in 2013, also made possible by funding from the NIH. The new funding will enable the current project, which is searching for biomarkers (measurable biological characteristics) of the disease, to be extended until 2021.

Dr Luis Nacul, who leads the CureME team at LSHTM and is also responsible for overseeing the UK ME/CFS Biobank, which has been built and maintained by charity support and the funding from America, welcomed the new funding and added:

“The new grant from the NIH (US) will enable, for the first time, comprehensive prospective assessments of cases of ME/CFS at regular intervals. This greatly enhances the chances of a breakthrough in the understanding of the pathophysiology of this complex disease and the identification of much-needed biomarkers for the diagnosis of different sub-groups of patients. We very much look forward to continuing our partnership with the patient community, which has been key to the success of our research so far.”

The grant will enable the collection and storage of blood samples and clinical data from a greater number of people with ME/CFS, to add to the existing resources donated by participants with ME/CFS and multiple sclerosis, as well as healthy controls.

The Biobank is the only resource in the world that includes samples from those most severely-affected – the house-bound or bed-bound – and is the premier resource outside of the United States for the study of the disease. All participants are examined by a clinician, and must conform to the Biobank’s rigorous protocols before donating tissue samples and data.”

The UK charity, The ME Association, has been a long-time supporter of the Biobank and provides funding to support its development. Dr Charles Shepherd, the charity’s medical adviser, and chair of the Biobank steering committee, said:

“This is the biggest ever investment into the physical causes of ME and represents a significant and vital sum of money that will help scientists unravel the mysteries of this devastating illness.

The fact that the NIH has decided to provide another major grant is an important endorsement of the ME/CFS Biobank, and we would like to congratulate all the staff who have been involved in setting up and developing what has become a vital new part of the biomedical research infrastructure here in the UK.

We hope that other research groups will now start to make use of this unique resource to achieve desperately-needed breakthroughs into the cause and treatment of ME/CFS.”

The CureME team would like to thank the many participants who have contributed to the project thus far.

The research is supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) under Award Number R01AI103629. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

Please see her for full details of the NIH grant, and the existing project.

Find out more about ME/CFS on the Alumni Blog.

Visit the CureME and ME Association websites for further information about CureME at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and the ME Association involvement.

Feature image courtesy of the CureME team – picture of the CureME team in 2016.

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