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MRC Prion Unit
From fundamental research to prevention and cure

The Medical Research Council (MRC) Prion Unit is pleased to announce that the Unit successfully transferred to UCL as an MRC University Unit on 1 June 2017. The Unit will now be known as the Medical Research Council Prion Unit at UCL. 

The transfer means that the Unit is now owned and run by the University, but still remains part of the MRC.

The MRC Prion Unit has been part of the UCL landscape for many  years now, and has always had fruitful links with the University. With the transfer, the Unit looks forward to becoming fully integrated with the University, as part of the UCL School of Life and Medical Sciences' new Institute of Prion Diseases. 

The transfer willl include the assignment of MRC Prion Unit research studies and associated data to UCL. As such, UCL will become the sole Data Controller (the organisation responsible under the data protection laws) and will take on responsibility for the oversight of personal data collected, held and processed through our research studies. Your personal information will continue to be held securely; accessed only by those involved in the research and shared in accordance with the details provided in the participant information sheet and consent form.

If you, or a member of your family, have any questions or concerns about this please contact:  data-protection@ucl.ac.uk      

If you, or a member of your family, have clinical queries then please contact: help.prion@uclh.nhs.uk  Further information is available from: 

UCL Data Protection Office:


Information Commissioner’s Office:


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Requests for predictive testing vary by age and mutation type. Much of this variation can be explained by the expected age at clinical onset of each mutation
Requests for predictive testing vary by age and mutation type. Much of this variation can be explained by the expected age at clinical onset of each mutation

About the Unit

The Medical Research Council (MRC) Prion Unit at UCL was established in 1998 and is located at the Institute of Prion Diseases where it is closely integrated with the University Department of Neurodegenerative Disease.
The Unit was formed to provide a national centre of excellence with all necessary facilities to pursue a major long-term research strategy in prion and related diseases.

Prions, unlike other infectious agents or germs, appear to lack their own genes and consist of aggregated misshapen forms of one of the body’s own proteins, the prion protein or PrP. Despite lacking genes, prions can exist as distinct strains with quite different properties. These unique features have wide implications in biology and evolution, and prions and prion diseases are of intense international research interest. However, in addition to the importance of this basic science, the Unit’s mission is also to tackle key public health issues posed by bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD).

It is becoming increasingly clear that other much commoner degenerative brain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, also involve accumulation of rogue or abnormal forms of one or more of the body’s proteins resulting in damage to brain cells. Prion diseases, in addition to their intrinsic interest and importance, can be considered a paradigm for these other “protein misfolding” diseases.

Our research programmes are highly multidisciplinary and focus both on areas of public health concern and a long-term approach to the understanding of prion disease. They include studies of molecular structure, genetics, biochemistry, immunology, cell and animal models, and clinical research - including treatment trials. Two major programmes to develop novel therapies are underway.

Our research philosophy is to seamlessly combine basic (laboratory) and clinical (patient-based) research. Many of the key contributions towards understanding the biology of these diseases have come from clinical and neuropathological observations. Efficient translation of these basic studies to enable better early diagnosis, prevention, and effective treatments, is crucial. A UK-wide tertiary referral service for patients suspected to have, or at risk of developing, any form of prion disease - the National Prion Clinic (NPC) - is based at the adjacent National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery and is closely integrated with the Unit allowing all patients who wish to participate in research to do so.

The Unit provides a key training resource and centre of specialist expertise in this unique area of biology and medicine and supports the development of neurodegenerative disease research more widely. The Unit has many local, national, European and other international links and collaborations in prion and other neurodegenerative disease research, and provides an authoritative independent source of advice and opinion in what continues to be an area of major scientific, public health, animal health, political and economic importance. 

Latest MRC Prion News

Site updated:
25th July 2018