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Understanding Wellcome: Wellcome’s thematic research areas

In this post Al Innes and Jonathan Rans of the Strategic Research Development Team, discuss the thematic areas of the new Wellcome strategy, and showcase a Wellcome Hub resource recently launched to support applicants whose research aligns with these areas.

Wellcome is one of the world’s largest charities, with a central purpose to improve global health through the research it funds. Wellcome has identified three thematic challenge areas for focused funding:

  • Mental Health
  • Infectious Disease
  • Climate and Health

We have created a new hub which introduces the new Wellcome themes and provides background and context, enabling you to start crafting high-quality research proposals.

In addition, our hub provides a guide to Wellcome’s general funding approach, for grants beyond thematic areas. This draws from a range of online resources, presenting information in an easily digestible format to help you understand where your research fits within Wellcome’s strategy.

The information shared on these pages is appropriate for academic researchers of any discipline or career stage and demonstrates the quality and environment that Wellcome funding applications require to be competitive.


Wellcome Theme: Mental Health

Wellcome want to transform the ability to intervene as early as possible in mental health conditions with the greatest societal impact. They have defined these as the conditions that affect the greatest number of people and that can be the most disabling – namely anxiety, depression, and psychosis. Psychosis, in this context, is broadly defined to encompass OCD, PTSD, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Wellcome aims to identify new and improved ways of addressing anxiety, depression and psychosis by understanding mechanisms of intervention, the ways in which brain, body and environment interact, and by finding better ways of grouping people with – or at risk of – these conditions.

It is vitally important to Wellcome that interventions are delivered in ways prioritised by the people experiencing them. For that reason, the meaningful involvement of those with lived experience is a critically important factor in projects under this theme and their exclusion must be justified when not needed.

To find out more, check the Mental Health section of the ERO Wellcome Research Hub.


Wellcome Theme: Climate and Health

According to the WHO, climate change is the single, greatest threat to humanity with many impacts on human health. For example, higher temperatures and extreme weather events, such as heatwaves and flash flooding, directly cause illness and death. However, climate change is also driving shifts in the distribution of important infectious diseases such as malaria, as well as reducing the ability of farmers to grow crops, potentially leaving millions of people in conditions of food insecurity.

Wellcome’s aim is to put health at the heart of climate action by significantly increasing our understanding of the impact of climate change on human health and by defining policies and interventions which protect health in their response to the crisis.

Wellcome has identified significant gaps in scientific understanding of the scale of the current and future effects of climate change on health; how to protect the health of populations as the climate changes (adaptation); and the potential benefits to health of actions that would reduce climate change (mitigation). Addressing these gaps will require better resourcing, increased interdisciplinary collaboration and international recognition of the actions and communities requiring prioritised support.

Wellcome’s research will provide the evidence that key decision makers can use to make science-informed choices when creating policy related to climate change and human health. To find out more, check the ERO Wellcome Research Hub.


Wellcome Theme: Infectious Disease

Research funded by Wellcome under the Infectious Disease theme will focus on ‘reduced risk and impact of infectious diseases’ by targeting the factors leading to escalation.

By escalation, they mean the changing factors and systems that allow a pathogen to spread out of control. For example, drug resistance of malaria, as well as the impact climate change has had on insect vectors – carriers of the pathogen – has allowed malaria to escalate. Wellcome aims to drive a paradigm shift in addressing infectious disease, moving from a reactive to a preventative approach.

That’s why they’re funding researchers to develop better medicines and interventions that help control escalating infections or drug-resistant variants once they are identified. Wellcome are investing in three general areas: understanding reservoirs, smart surveillance, developing targeted, affordable interventions.



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