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The Medical and Life Sciences Translational Fund (MLSTF) is open to all University of Oxford researchers and provides consolidated internal proof of concept funding for translational medical and life sciences projects.

The next MLSTF round will open on Wednesday 10 July 2024

Given the recent success of the Translational Research Office (TRO) in increasing the funding volume available to the Medical and Life Sciences Translational Fund (MLSTF) we are pleased to announce an earlier return of the next round for MLSTF. MLSTF supports proof-of-concept projects at the early stages of translation that are of high risk but with potential of high reward. It funds researchers to accelerate the transition from discovery research to translational development projects by supporting preliminary work or feasibility studies to establish the viability of a translational approach. This fund does not support exploratory basic science.

Comprising of devolved funding from MRC, Wellcome IP Revenue Retention Funds, NIHR BRC Revenue Funds, with some additional aligned funding, MLSTF is a consolidated fund where in 2024, the project managed fund will be approximately £1.5M to ‘pump-prime’ the translation of novel therapeutics, devices, diagnostics, artificial intelligence and digital technologies in healthcare and other therapeutic interventions (including ‘repurposing of existing therapies’) toward clinical testing.

New and Improved Award Scheme Key Highlights

Following feedback from key stakeholders, including previous applicants and award holders, MLSTF has undergone transformational changes with the ambition to increase the quality of applications submitted to MLSTF that have great potential in creating commercial, clinical, societal or global impact. Our revamped MLSTF scheme offers a dedicated stepping stone opportunity for early career researchers to enhance their skillset and pursue their translational research endeavours.

Key changes to the scheme include:

  1. An increase in funding volume per project from £75k to £85k
  2. A dedicated route termed “Emerging Translational Innovators (ETI)” which provides an opportunity for early career researchers to use this fund as a stepping stone towards independently pursuing their translational research endeavours*.
  3. A softened cap on the maximum number of applications from two to three per applicant (as PI, or Co-I) **
  4. Availability of dedicated funds to achieve clinical impact through clinical translation and human applications.

Remit

The Fund supports goal-oriented translational research projects with a strong scientific rationale and which meet a clear and important translational medical need. Projects should also demonstrate distinct advantages over competing translational approaches that are in development or are already available in the marketplace. Projects should aim to provide sufficient preliminary data to establish proof of concept, strategic merit in a translational context, or the viability of a translational approach (i.e. to provide confidence in the underlying concept, before seeking more substantial funding from other sources), such as MRC Developmental Pathway Funding Scheme (DPFS), or equivalent schemes from other funders, or from industry.

An explicit outcome of the award of MLSTF is that projects should have a complete package of scientific and technical data and subsequently be strong candidates for highly competitive external follow-on translational funding.

To be competitive, the project proposal should identify a critical path for generating preliminary proof-of-concept data and reaching a value of inflection point that supports moving to the next stage of translation. The project should be milestone-based with clearly articulated and quantifiable markers, which will form the basis of a rigorous monitoring process that will take place throughout the project's lifetime. All modalities of therapy and diagnostics including engineering/medical technology and bioinformatics approaches are welcomed. The research areas under which applications have been supported in the past include infection, immunity & AMR, vaccine science, oncology, neuroscience, mental health, rare diseases and regenerative medicine.

Applications demonstrating academic-industry collaboration are particularly encouraged, principles and policies of a MRC Industry Collaboration Framework (ICF) should be followed, with heads of terms being agreed with partners prior to application submission. Please contact your local Research Services team who will be able to assist with this. Where the partner is an existing or prospective spinout, there must be a strong and clear case that the proposed project is a new stream of work and not additional development of the initial technology that was licenced to the spinout. It should also be clear that the spinout is the most appropriate company to support this particular project. A clear statement of how conflict of interest will be managed must be included.

Emerging Translational Innovators (ETI)

* Please note, the remit around the dedicated MLSTF-ETI route, with the ETI being the principal applicant is as follows:

  • ETIs here are defined as Oxford employed-, early career researchers which includes post-doctoral researcher, clinical researchers, or junior group leaders within the first few years of independence and/or on their first permanent, open-ended or long-term rolling contract.
  • Volume of funding available is up to £50K, for projects lasting 6-8 months in duration.
  • The ETI must obtain approval from their PI/line manager confirming support and/or permission to undertake the proposed activity stated in the application, subject to award recommendation by the MLSTF committee.
  • The ETI will be required to officially identify a mentor who will support the ETI and their proposed research workplan.
  • The ETI together with the mentor is required to carve out the expected skill sets to gain/develop during the proposal and how this application would support the ETIs future aspirations.  
  • ETIs must use the main MLSTF case for support application but with the above outlined limits on funding volume and project duration.
  • ETIs are highly encouraged to attend a training session in Jan 2024 with an aligned expert either identified by themselves as mentor or by the TRO through its Experts in Residence Network.

** Please note that this year we have softened the cap on the maximum number of applications that are allowed per applicant to be three applications. One can be named as PI or co-PI on a maximum of three applications per research group and therefore it is expected that an internal triage is performed within research groups in order to select the best applications to be submitted to the scheme.

Format

It is envisaged that the available funds will finance in the region of 16-18 projects, with the Translational Research Office (TRO) providing project management support for the scheme and projects where appropriate.

Funding available from MLSTF will be up to £85k per project (for non-ETI applicants) and up to £50k (for ETI applicants); awards will be made from MLSTF for direct costs only. Whilst a ‘match’ contribution is not mandatory, it is strongly encouraged. The cost of individual projects in this case can be up to £170k with applicants being required to demonstrate at least 50% matching from another source of the direct costs awarded.

Projects should be in the region of 6-12 months (for non-ETI applicants) and 6-8 months (for ETI applicants), with funding for 12-month projects requiring full justification. Awards must commence within 1 month of the award being issued. All projects must be completed within 1 year of the start date and/or in line with overarching MRC grant conditions.  Please ensure that your project is scheduled accordingly and that the timeline is appropriate to the objectives and milestones set out.

Please note funding will not support: entire translational projects; bridging funding or PhD studentships; continuation of normal research grants; and costs relating to protection of intellectual property. Please also note that PI or co-applicant salary is not an eligible cost. Awards will be managed from the Translational Research Office on behalf of the University.  Applications, scores and reviewer comments may be shared with other internal University panels to ensure maximum value for money. An award condition is acceptance of a ‘mid-term’ review meeting with the Translational Research Office and a panel of experts to discuss progress made towards milestones.

Co-funding with EPSRC IAA

For life sciences researchers with underpinning research funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), there is an opportunity to access some EPSRC-IAA funding.  Applicants are encouraged to select the relevant, aligned research area in the case for support application form which will assist the TRO in aligning and administrating the proposal for EPSRC co-funding consideration.

NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre (BRC)

The TRO is partnering with the NIHR Oxford BRC to support early-stage translational research proposals with a clear link to translational patient benefit and clinical implementation. This opportunity is open to researchers working for either Oxford University or Oxford University Hospitals Trust (if working for OUH you will be expected to have an honorary contract with an Oxford University department to access these funds. If you do not have an honorary contract then please contact jennifer.anderson@ouh.nhs.uk to discuss further). Applications that fall under this remit must select the NIHR research area option in the main case for support application form. Please note that animal work is NOT permitted within these proposals.

University Challenge Seed Fund

Applicants should also note that the University Challenge Seed Fund will open on 4 January 2024 and that Oxford University Innovation (OUI) will accept applications based on a first-come-first-served basis. The call will close on 22 February 2024. OUI will stop reviewing applications sent after this date. In this instance, two separate proposals would be submitted to each scheme (UCSF, MLSTF) and would be reviewed by their respective committee members.

Researchers should engage with both the TRO and OUI to discuss potential match funding models. The lead contact from OUI for UCSF is Dr Naunehal Matharu (Naunehal.Matharu@innovation.ox.ac.uk)

The next MLSTF round will open on Wednesday 10 July 2024

How to Apply

Applicants should complete an online application through IRAMS, which requests information about the principal applicant and any co-applicants or editors, a lay summary (non-confidential – please see resources available on TRO website for writing a succinct and impactful lay summary), a financial breakdown of your proposal (X5 report must be appended) and a case for support form uploaded to the IRAMS application system. You must incorporate all requested components of the case for support into one document (see below) and upload this in the template provided on IRAMS as a PDF. IRAMS guidance in the form of quick reference guide documents for applicants, departmental approvers and administrators can be found on Research Support pages.

Please note that applications must be reviewed and approved in IRAMS by a Departmental Approver before they will be reviewed by the Committee; the advertised application deadline is the deadline for final submission to the MLSTF Committee. Departments may set an earlier internal deadline to allow for departmental review, so please check with your local admin team and submit your application to your Departmental Approver in advance of the advertised deadline. 

A case for support form and CVs (one page max. each PI & CoI) for all applicants named in the application must be appended to the IRAMS application form. It is also mandatory for applicants to append a comprehensive Gantt chart on the milestones and timeline of your project (1 page max), a 1-page supporting data and information (figures/tables) document, and a 1-page X5 costing approved by the department.  

Applicants are strongly advised to use the ‘Guidance for Applicants’ document on ‘What the panel is looking for’ hints under each section of the case for support form when completing your application.

Download the Case for Support Application Form*

Download the Guidance for Applicants*

*If you require an accessible version of either of these documents, please contact translationalresearchoffice@medsci.ox.ac.uk.

The case for support must answer the following sections comprehensively:

  • A 250-word abstract of the proposal requesting MLSTF funding
  • Project objectives and proposed outcomes, including information about proposed development milestones and potential next steps following completion of the project to include, for example, sources of follow-on funding, plans for commercialization;
  • A timeline for your project, aligning with milestones to demonstrate that these are realistic both in terms of the objectives set and the time necessary to achieve them; identification of ‘critical path’;
  • A justification for support explaining how your proposal is aligned with the remit and objectives of the Fund;
  • Details of any industrial engagement in your project and plans to advance this;
  • Details on the competitiveness of the approach
  • Details on regulatory management
  • IP status: Are third parties involved and how will IP be managed with respect to these collaborators?
  • A description of any matched funding secured.
  • A data management plan

The deadline for submission of MLSTF applications through IRAMS is 5 February 2024, 10am.

Reviewing Guidelines

Projects will be scored from 0-9 (0=lowest; 9=highest) based on their potential for transition from discovery research to translational development through preliminary work or feasibility studies.

Please refer to the ‘What are the panel looking for?’ hints under each section of the case for support form when completing your application.

Panel scores and definitions

Score

Score definitions

9

The application is exceptional; it very strongly meets all of the assessment criteria to the highest standard. The panel agrees that it is difficult to articulate how the application could be improved.

8

The application is outstanding; it very strongly meets all of the assessment criteria.

7

The application is excellent; it strongly meets all of the assessment criteria.

6

The application is very good; it meets the assessment criteria well but with some minor weaknesses/limitations.

5

The application is good; it meets the assessment criteria well but with some clear weaknesses/limitations.

4

The application is adequate; it meets the assessment criteria but with clear weaknesses/limitations.

3

The application is weak; it meets the assessment criteria but with significant weaknesses/limitations.

2

The application is poor; it meets the assessment criteria but has major weaknesses/limitations.

1

The application is unsatisfactory; it does not meet one or more of the assessment criteria.

0

The application is unsatisfactory; it does not meet any of the assessment criteria.

Selection Criteria

 Reviews are asked to consider the following criteria when assessing your project(s):

Strength of rationale and quality of science

  • Is the proposed approach an effective way of meeting the plan’s objectives and is it based on a good scientific rationale?
  • How innovative is the plan, or is it a tried and tested approach?
  • Is the preliminary data promising and robust?

Unmet medical need

  • Is there a clear clinical impact and unmet need?
  • If the need is not significant now, will it become so in the future?
  • Would meeting this need significantly reduce disease burden and/or provide a valuable commercial opportunity and/or alleviate an important development bottleneck?

Project planning and execution

  • Project Plan: Does the plan propose reasonable go/no-go milestones? Do the milestones follow the SMART principle? Are the milestone timings appropriate and are the success criteria necessary and sufficient to judge progression? Are the proposed probabilities of milestones being met reasonable?
  • Project and Risk Management: Do the applicants have or likely will have the necessary project management experience to deliver the plan? Has the individual or group established a high-quality track record in the field? Does the applicant have the relevant team/expertise in place to deliver the proposed milestones?
  • Resource requirements, deliverability and Environment: Has the team identified and secured reasonable access to necessary resources/skills? Has the applicant recognised appropriate stakeholders (such as industry partners and key academic collaborators) to contribute in propelling the translational activity of the project? Is the budget realistic for the scale and complexity of the project? Have the applicants set out a clear and reasonable case for the requested levels of staffing and overall resources?

Future commercial opportunity or potential clinical, societal or global health impact

  • Has the applicant identified the key competing solutions and their status or are they aware of other similar or complementary research underway elsewhere?
  • Has the applicant identified the key competitive advantages/USPs of their proposed solution?
  • Is the cost higher than for competing solutions?
  • Have safety and tolerability been considered?
  • How likely is it that the proposed solution, if achieved, would be widely adopted?

IP position

  • Is there an appropriate intellectual property strategy in place to optimise the chances of downstream funding/partnering and ultimate exploitation?
  • Is the research academic-led where industry is involved?

Downstream project planning/support

  • Likelihood of developing a full proposal to be submitted to the MRC DPFS award scheme, or similar follow-on funding schemes, within the required timescale and budget.
  • Does the applicant have a clear plan towards clinical impact /commercialisation following completion of MLSTF?

Awards Process

Should ethics and/or Home Office approvals be required for the projects, priority will be given to those applications that already have these in place.

Applications will be reviewed by the MLSTF Committee, chaired by Dr Nessa Carey. Please note, the Committee membership comprises both internal academic and external commercial experts to ensure robust, vigorous review in line with funder recommendations. All external members are required to sign a CDA prior to reviewing applications.

Applications submitted by ETIs will be ranked and reviewed separately to non-ETI applications.

Key dates

The panel meeting is anticipated to be held on the week commencing 11 March 2024. Applicants will be notified by the 5 April 2024 at the latest of the outcome.  Award letters will be sent out by 5 April 2024. Work must commence within 1 month of the award letter or otherwise agreed with the TRO.

Further information

All potential applicants are encouraged to discuss their proposed projects with the TRO: translationalresearchoffice@medsci.ox.ac.uk.

Watch Tips for MLSTF videos on the TRO website.

The TRO can also assist with finding suitable collaborators and sourcing appropriate support and expertise through the Experts in Residence (ExIR) programme.

Applicants are also encouraged to discuss their proposal with Oxford University Innovation (OUI) well in advance of submission. OUI will be able to advise and support on the industry engagement and IP aspects of bids as well as the potential for match funding through the UCSF scheme.

For any further information regarding this scheme please contact: translationalresearchoffice@medsci.ox.ac.uk

The next MLSTF round will open on Wednesday 10 July 2024

For enquiries about the MLSTF or to discuss your application please contact a member of the Translational Research Office.

Chair

Dr Nessa Carey, Entrepreneur in Residence (EiR), Medical Sciences Division

Members

  • Professor Helen McShane, Nuffield Department of Medicine (Co-Chair)
  • Professor Matthew Wood, Deputy Head of Division (Innovation)
  • Professor Anthony Galione, Department of Pharmacology
  • Professor Fadi Issa, Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences
  • Professor Eleanor Stride, Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences
  • Professor Paresh Vyas, Radcliffe Department of Medicine
  • Professor David Clifton, Department of Engineering Science
  • Dr Jan Wolber, GE Healthcare
  • Dr Mike Whelan, Clove Biopharmaceuticals
  • Dr Laura Ferguson, AstraZeneca
  • Dr Toni Day, OrganOx
  • Dr Paul Cox, Apellis Pharmaceuticals
  • Dr Oliver Harrison, Entrepreneur in Residence, Koa Health
  • Dr Giles Sanders, TTP
  • Dr Simon Warner, Oxford University Innovation
  • Dr Heather Roxborough, Health Tech Oxford Science Enterprises
  • Dr Claire Brown, Oxford Science Enterprise

Secretariat

  • Dr Deepak Kumar
  • Dr Oliver Rughani-Hindmarch
  • Dr Kavita Subramaniam
  • Dr Fiona Story
  • Deborah Thomas
  • Vlada Yarosh

All secretariat members are members of the Translational Research Office, Medical Sciences Division

Developing a novel dengue vaccine 

Professor Arturo Reyes-Sandoval (Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine) was awarded funding for his project to develop a new vaccine against dengue fever.

Modulating circadian rhythm disruption

Dr Sridhar Vasudevan (Department of Pharmacology) received funding to investigate a series of drugs which could be used to modulate and treat circadian rhythm disorders.

Developing slow-wave activity saturation as a marker of depth of anaesthesia 

Dr Katie Warnaby (Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences) received funding to develop a new technique for measuring depth of anaesthesia in patients.


 

funded projects 2020

  • Endosomal escape technology to maximise the therapeutic potential of brain-targeted EVs conjugated with siRNA via GAPDH in Huntington's disease, Matthew Wood (Department of Paediatrics, Medical Sciences Division)
  • Neurostimulator with Artefact-free Recording of Electrophysiological Signals (NARES) for Closed-loop Stimulation, Huiling Tan (Medical Sciences Division)
  • Making Novel T cell Receptor Therapy for Acute Myeloid Leukaemia And Other Cancers, Paresh Vyas (Medical Sciences Division)
  • MAGNETO: Magnetic Actuators and Neural Engineering for TMS Optimisation, Timothy Denison (Mathematical, Physical & Life Sciences Division)
  • Application of an ultra-deep paired antibody sequencing platform for drug discovery in acute and persistent viral infections, John Frater (Medical Sciences Division)
  • Developing the anti-cancer therapeutic compound NBS037 to an IND filing and Phase I human trial, Karl J Morten (Medical Sciences Division)
  • Biased agonism of GPR84 as a novel dual anti-inflammatory and pro-repair mechanism, Angela Russell (Medical Sciences Division)
  • Circulating Placental DPPIV Positive Extracellular Vesicles as a Biomarker for Gestational Diabetes Mellitus, Manu Vatish (Medical Sciences Division)
  • Single-cell multi-omics as a technology platform for therapeutic target discovery in poor prognosis leukaemia, Adam Mead (Medical Sciences Division)
  • Oligonucleotide therapy for DMD cardiomyopathy via a patient derived cardiomyocyte screening platform, Matthew Wood (Medical Sciences Division)
  • Chimeric Bicyclic Peptides for Targeted Delivery of Antisense Oligonucleotides, Richard Raz (Medical Sciences Division)
  • The Fit for Labour test: risk stratification at the onset of labour to provide clinical decision-support to labour management, Antoniya Georgieva (Medical Sciences Division)
  • A Smart Infant Monitoring System (SIMS): A fully automated, real-time system that measures pain and can predict physiological instability following acute procedures in neonates, Aomesh Bhatt (Medical Sciences Division)
  • A novel pathway for therapeutic targeting in cardiometabolic diseases, Ellie Tzima (Radcliffe Department of Medicine, Medical Sciences Division)
  • Development of CRISPR gene therapy for Stargardt disease, Robert MacLaren (Medical Sciences Division)
  • AI-Based Covid-19 Diagnostic Tests using Routine Clinical Data, David Clifton (Mathematical, Physical & Life Sciences Division)
  • Translational development of an outer membrane vesicle vaccine against gonorrhoea, Christine Rollier (Medical Sciences Division)

View our previously funded projects

  • Development of UGGT1 inhibitors as broad-spectrum antivirals, Nicole Zitzmann (Department of Biochemistry)
  • Development of an adeno-associated viral vectored immunoprophylactic strategy against blood-stage Plasmodium vivax Malaria, Martino Bardelli (Jenner Institute, Nuffield Department of Medicine)
  • Developing small molecule inhibitors for a rare childhood seizure disorder, Wyatt Yue (Nuffield Department of Medicine, Structural Genomics Consortium)
  • Harnessing the properties of a small compound to improve the efficiency of reprogramming dendritic cells to pluripotencyPaul Fairchild (Sir William Dunn School of Pathology)
  • Deep Brain Stimulation for Multiple System Atrophy, Alex Green (Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences)
  • Structure-guided design of FAM83B inhibitors for triple negative breast cancer, Alex Bullock (Nuffield Department of Medicine)
  • MICA: Reprogramming tumor immunity by targeting tenascin-C, Kim Midwood (Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences)
  • T-cell receptor-like antibodies targeting p53, Alison Banham (Radcliffe Department of Medicine)
  • Polymer-DNA nanoparticles for Therapeutic Intracellular Delivery, Andrew Turberfield (Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics)
  • Orthotopic colorectal cancer patient-derived xenograft models to test therapeutic manipulation ofGREM1, Simon Leedham (Nuffield Department of Medicine)
  • Structure-Guided Design of Sonic Hedgehog Morphogen Inhibitors, Christian Siebold (Nuffield Department of Medicine)
  • Proof-of-concept controlled human infection with Plasmodium vivax malaria to accelerate Phase II clinical trials of vaccine candidates, Angela Minassian (Nuffield Department of Medicine)
  • How does BCG vaccination facilitate protection against malaria? Anita Milicic (Nuffield Department of Medicine)
  • CMV-vectored vaccines: second generation vectors with improved safety profile, Sarah Sebastian (Nuffield Department of Medicine)
  • Development of a novel bivalent vaccine to prevent both Salmonella Typhi and Paratyphi infections, Christine Rollier (Department of Paediatrics)
  • Ultrasonic electrospray of intact complexes from vesicles and exosomes, Carol Robinson (Department of Chemistry - Mathematical, Physical & Life Sciences Division)
  • Non-invasive estimation of pulmonary blood flow in primary pulmonary hypertension, Peter Robbins (Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics)
  • New approaches to microsphere formulation for single dose prime-boost vaccine delivery, Anita Milicic (Nuffield Department of Medicine)
  • Utilising immune-dominant epitopes of limited variability to create a novel influenza vaccine, Sunetra Gupta; Department of Zoology - Mathematical, Physical & Life Sciences Division)
  • Development of UGGT1 inhibitors as broad-spectrum antivirals, Nicole Zitzmann (Department of Biochemistry)
  • The development of pan-genotypic Hepatitis C virus vaccine generating T and B cell immunity, Eleanor Barnes (Radcliffe Department of Medicine)
  • A universal H1N1 influenza vaccine using an epitope of limited variability: Sunetra Gupta; Department of Zoology - Mathematical, Physical & Life Sciences Division)
  • A flexible and scalable platform for creating novel medicinal macrocycles, James Naismith (Nuffield Department of Medicine)
  • Pre-clinical development of therapeutic cross-reactive monoclonal antibodies to Ebola viruses, Pramila Rijal (Radcliffe Department of Medicine)
  • Structure based beta-Lactamase resistant transpeptidase inhibitors to address antibiotic resistance: Christopher Schofield (Department of Chemistry - Mathematical, Physical & Life Sciences Division)
  • Polymeric-DNA nanoparticles: modular delivery systems for nucleic acid-based therapies: Andrew J Turberfield (Department of Physics - Mathematical, Physical & Life Sciences Division)
  • Measuring lung inhomogeneity in paediatric cystic fibrosis, Grant A.D. Ritchie (Department of Chemistry - Mathematical, Physical & Life Sciences Division)
  • Universal Big DNA assembly: transition to a translatable high throughput process, Christopher O'Callaghan (Nuffield Department of Medicine)
  • Using DNA-based diagnostics to prevent death of children with blood disorders in sub-Saharan Africa, Anna Schuh (Department of Oncology)
  • Using genome variation to sort extremely rare cell populations for clinical application, John Frater (Nuffield Department of Medicine)
  • Antibody-mediated oligonucleotide delivery to brain for neurodegenerative disease, Suzan Hammond (Department of Paediatrics)
  • CAT&MAUS: simultaneous imaging and analysis of joint motion for clinical assessment: Stephen Mellon (Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology & Musculoskeletal Sciences)
  • GAPDH and extracellular vesicles: biological nanoparticles for therapy of neurodegenerative diseases: Ghulam Dar (Department of Paediatrics)
  • Proteomic biomarkers in IBD, Alexander Adams(Nuffield Department of Medicine)