In response to three questions about ME research and Government pro-activity in the area which had been tabled by Ann McKechin (Labour MP for Glasgow North), the Conservative life sciences minister George Freeman MP – who holds cross-Ministry posts in both the Department of Health and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills – provided this written answer yesterday (24 November 2014):
No assessment has been made of the potential links between abnormalities in the immune system and myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME). However, we are aware of at least one small study involving 30 patients that suggested the immune system may have a role to play in the development of ME.
The Department has commissioned no research in the last three years on the causes of ME and has had no specific discussions or correspondence with the Medical Research Council (MRC) on its level of funding for research on the biomedical causes of ME in the last 12 months.
The MRC, which is an independent body funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, has identified research into CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome)/ME as a research priority and the Council has implemented a number of initiatives to stimulate high quality research in this area. The MRC's current priorities for this area are outlined in a highlight notice, which can be found on its website at:
The MRC does not commission research but in 2011 issued a targeted call for proposals to help increase the understanding of the mechanisms of the condition and £1.65 million was awarded to support five research projects addressing a number of priorities in CFS/ME research identified by the research community.
The MRC welcomes applications on all aspects of human health from the research community and proposals compete for the funding available. These applications are subject to peer review and judged in open competition, with awards being made on the basis of the scientific quality of the proposals submitted.
Ann McKechin had asked these questions:
1. To ask the Secretary of State for Health, whether his Department has had (a) discussions and (b) correspondence with the Medical Research Council on its level of funding for research on the biomedical causes of ME in the last 12 months.
2. To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what research his Department has commissioned on the causes of ME in the last three years.
3. To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what assessment his Department has made of potential links between abnormalities in the immune system and ME.