An Update from the MCRC on the Covid-19 Pandemic

The recent outbreak of Covid-19 has had a profound impact on cancer research activities in Manchester. In the video below, Director of the Manchester Cancer Research Centre, Professor Robert Bristow, updates about the impact of the pandemic.

A changing research landscape

This outbreak has led to a seismic change in the research landscape in Manchester. Where laboratories were once used to research immunology at the Lydia Becker Institute of Immunology and Inflammation, now the laboratory space and researchers are putting their scientific knowledge into developing treatments for Covid-19.

Where our clinical colleagues were once investigating the latest novel advanced therapies to treat cancer tumours, many have now volunteered to help in the fight against the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

And funding bodies, like Cancer Research UK, that last month were helping fund cancer research are increasingly shifting their attention to Covid-19 research, beating Covid-19 today so that tomorrow we can return to beating cancer, as Professor Iain Foulkes elegantly wrote.

I have been incredibly proud of how the scientific community in Manchester, and across the world has come together to meet this new challenge. In particular, I wish to commend those colleagues who have either chosen to return to the clinic to treat patients affected by Covid-19 or have volunteered their expertise to testing laboratories across Manchester.

The rapid response is a testament to the leadership teams at the University of Manchester, Cancer Research UK and The Christie, Salford Royal and Manchester University NHS Foundation Trusts who have and continue to respond rapidly in what is a constantly evolving and challenging situation.

Moving cancer research online

Following the decision to close on The University of Manchester on the 17th of March, all laboratory activity at the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, Oglesby Cancer Research Building and on The University of Manchester campus has stopped, with the exception of select Covid-19 research and select essential research projects.

As such, research groups are now adapting to online platforms as ways for us to continue to develop research as much as we can. While many of us have continued to develop ways of discussing the latest academic research via journal clubs and maintain contact with our friends and family, this new connected medium provides us with an opportunity to build new virtual teams easier and find new ways to connect with researchers across the world.

This down time in our activities affords us the opportunity to interrogate our research hypotheses, ensuring that we are approaching the research from the best angle supported by literature evidence. By taking this time to develop and strategize new ideas, we can return stronger with more impactful scientific research, when the laboratories reopen.

We have many exciting initiatives on the horizon over the coming weeks to help engage our scientific communities in novel research from across the world, including online workshops, seminars and lectures that I would encourage everyone to attend.

Available Resources

There are many resources available to us to help us get through this current period of uncertainty.

Firstly, if any of our postgraduate researchers or supervisors have any queries about research funding or working remotely, they should first visit the University of Manchester PGR FAQ pages, which are being regularly updated with further information as soon as it is available. 
Secondly, there are many resources available for staff who are looking to develop skills or knowledge in cancer research. The following are available:

Additional Skills
·       University of Manchester Training and Development, including LinkedIn Learning: 
·       University of Manchester Microsoft Online Training: 
Research Specific Resources
·       European Society of Radiology: Education on Demand premium courses have been added to free content for the next four weeks

Data management courses
·       CRUK Cambridge Institute: The CRUK Cambridge Institute Graduate Training Programme are offering MCRC, CRUK Manchester Centre and Division of Cancer Sciences PhD students free access to their Data Handling Moodle course. For access, please contact Dr Louisa Bellis (, Graduate Training Programme Manager, quoting this offer.
·       edX (previously Mooc): A range of free online courses on subjects including bioinformatics, genomics data analysis
·       Cognitive Classes Data Sciences courses: Free online courses and virtual labs to encourage skill development in data sciences, AI, big data, cloud computing and blockchain

Cancer research introductory courses
·       Future Learn: Free online courses typically grouped by subject
·       Coursera: Free online courses from a range of international providers
And finally, our operations team have been making the most of various virtual team building exercises, a list of which can be found here.
Stay safe everyone, and look after yourselves, your friends and your families during this difficult time.

Category: MCRC

Professor Robert Bristow is the Director of the Manchester Cancer Research Centre and the Co-Director of the Cancer Research UK Manchester Centre.

Read more posts by Robert Bristow