Covid-19 Rapid Response Rolling Call


Building on the initial calls of their Initiative, DHSC, through the NIHR, and UKRI are jointly launching a rolling call for proposals for rapid research into Covid-19. As this is a rolling call there is currently no fixed end date to the call, we are open to applications and will aim to review complete proposals within 4 weeks of submission.

For UK-led academic, SME and wider industry research that will address a wide range of Covid-19 knowledge gaps/needs, and which will lead to a benefit in UK, potentially international, public health within 12 months.

Research to understand the disease, prevent, treat and control it will be critical for mitigating the severity of the Covid-19 outbreak. Rapid progress in addressing this epidemic will depend upon a coherent and integrated response from researchers, industry, the healthcare system and the public. Consequently, in early February 2020 we launched a strategic Initiative encompassing two different calls i) active intervention development including vaccines and therapeutics, and ii) diagnosis and understanding of Covid-19. Over £20m was made available for this Initiative through the primary government funders of UK medical research – the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), through the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), funding awards in both calls. Details of the first six awards to be funded through this initiative can be found here.

We are now launching a subsequent, rolling call for rapid research proposals with potential to deliver public health impacts within 12 months.

Short term (up to 12 month) proposals are sought. All proposals will need to be able to show how progress within the period of award could make a significant contribution to the understanding, prevention and/or management of the Covid-19 outbreak. The research scope of this call is as below:

  • Virology, Immunity and Pathophysiology – Research as part of an experimental medicine and/or clinical study focused on defining critical biological/pathological parameters necessary for the prioritisation of preventative, supportive and/or therapeutic interventions.
  • Diagnostics – Rapid point of care diagnostics for use at the community level. Proposals will need to robustly justify their added value, in the context of significant existing activity, and to provide strong evidence in terms of deliverability and route to commercialisation, at scale and speed.
  • Epidemiology
    • Transmission – Research that will enable better understanding of the nature of transmission of and exposure to the virus, including via surfaces and aerosols.
    • Disease Susceptibility and Severity – Understanding susceptibility of different populations (age, sex, ethnicity, demographics, underlying health conditions, etc), including vulnerable and marginalised groups, such as the homeless and drug users. Characterization of the spectrum of clinical manifestations and disease severity of SARS-CoV2 infections, including potential contribution of viral load, kinetics and genotype, sites of infection and associated immunopathology, variability in immune responses, collateral tissue damage, and associated factors (demographics, etc.).
    • Control and Mitigation – Research to understand social distancing measures that are most effective at preventing or reducing spread of SARS-CoV2, and how such distancing and isolation measures may be most effectively relaxed. With comparative studies particularly welcomed.
  • IPC and PPE – Studies to optimize use of personal protective equipment and other infection prevention and control measures in health care and community settings.
  • Public Health, Media and Communication – research to better understand how to enhance and implement acceptability of and adherence to management, IPC and public health measures, and simultaneously how to minimize stigma and prejudice. This being essential for putting evidence-based measures into practice.
  • Public Health – including what are relevant, feasible, effective approaches to promote acceptance, uptake, and adherence to public health measures for Covid-19 prevention and control, and how secondary impacts, including mental health, social isolation and domestic violence, can be rapidly identified and mitigated, including special attention to vulnerable groups.
  • Media and communication – Studies into and implementation of the most effective ways to address the underlying drivers of fear, anxieties, rumours, stigma regarding Covid-19, and how to improve public knowledge, awareness, and trust during the response, including strategies to combat misinformation. Studies into the potential benefits of increased use of digital technology, for both communication and data capture.
  • Clinical Management – Rapid assessments of available data from studies to learn what standards of care are the most effective for patients at different stages of the disease, including effective triage, and taking advantage of all available technological innovations to improve survival and recovery.
  • Primary, Adjunctive and Supportive Therapies – Evaluation of the effect of primary, adjunctive and supportive therapies, including immune modulators. Proposals will need to be placed in the context of work already underway in this area, including as listed in the WHO directory of clinical trials.
  • Vaccines – Evaluation of investigational vaccines and passive immunological approaches, improved collaboration and comparison across different studies. Proposals will need to robustly justify their case for funding, given significant existing international activity in this area.
  • Health and Care Delivery
    • Research which requires the real time pandemic context for delivery of the proposed study design.
    • Evaluation of innovations in health and social care delivery prompted by the pandemic, which can be generalised and actioned in the pandemic context.
    • Evaluation of implementation, acceptability and feasibility of workforce interventions to support physical and mental health wellbeing.
    • Evaluation of different approaches to resource use and deployment of the workforce across the whole health and social care eco-system.
    • Research to support ensuring and optimising access to health and social care services by people from different sociodemographic groups and ethnic groups.
  • Underpinning
    • Assays and Animal Models – Development of assays and animal models required to support the development of therapeutics and vaccines. Proposals will need to be placed in the context of work already funded in this area.
    • Provision Infrastructure – Platforms supporting sharing of information, reagents, tools, protocols and standards. Proposals will need to be placed in the context of work already funded in this area.


Academic Principal Investigators applying for this call must be hosted by a UK institution which is eligible for UKRI funding. Applications from Small and Medium Enterprises[1] (including start-up or ‘spin-out’ companies), government arms length bodies, and NHS organisations (including NHS Trusts and NHS Foundation Trusts), and equivalent UK authorities are also encouraged in alignment with NIHR funding policies, where these organisations are the lead applicant. Awards to UK-based, non-SME commercial entities will be also considered.

Funding available

The size of grants will vary according to the needs of each research project but will need to provide a robust case for value for money.

Requested costs for UK based researchers should be 80% of full economic costs (fEC) and, where relevant, for overseas researchers should be 100% of direct costs only. Funded projects in academia will be subject to standard UKRI T&Cs for fEC research grants. In line with NIHR funding policy this call will cover 100% costs for SME[1] and NHS trusts (across the whole of the UK).

How to apply

Applicants must apply by first filling out the information contained in the NIHR Clinical Research Network’s COVID-19 enquiry form. Applicants requiring funding will then be invited to complete a full application. Within this document, please use the tab key to move between cells in the form.

All proposals must utilise the provided form and be accompanied by:

The regulatory requirements annex that forms part of the application form.

An optional but recommended document of supporting figures, GANTT chart and/or data tables (no more than 1xA4 page)

A CV for the Principal Investigator and any Co-Investigators. Each CV to provide relevant key publications/outputs and grants and other relevant information indicating their suitability to lead/support the research as described in the application (no more than 1xA4 page per CV using Arial 11 point).

Applications must be collated into a single pdf in the following order – Form plus Annex, Document of supporting figures, GANTT chart and/or data tables, CVs – and submitted to [email protected].

Given that this opportunity is for timely proposals, grants are expected to start within four weeks of award notification.

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