The 2023 round has now closed.
Building on the success of the previous Medical and Life Sciences Translational Fund (MLSTF), the University has received further funding from the Medical Research Council (MRC) to continue the scheme. MLSTF supports proof-of-concept projects at the earliest stages of translation. 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.
MLSTF is a consolidated fund comprising devolved funding from MRC, with some additional aligned funding. In 2023, the project managed fund will be approximately £1.4M to ‘pump-prime’ the translation of novel therapeutics, devices, diagnostics and other therapeutic interventions (including ‘repurposing of existing therapies’) toward clinical testing.
The Novo Nordisk Innovation Fund and the Oxford Biomedica Innovation Fund will continue to run under the umbrella of MLSTF in 2023. In addition, we are pleased to confirm facilitated co-funding opportunities with CRUK, the BBSRC IAA and the University Challenge Seed Fund.
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 subsequently be strong candidates for external follow-on translational funding.
To be competitive, the project proposal should identify a critical path for generating preliminary proof-of-concept data 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 Agreement (MICA) 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.
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 £75k per project; 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 £150k with applicants being required to demonstrate at least 50% matching from another source of the direct costs awarded.
In the instance of co-funding strands, if your research scope falls within the interest areas of Novo Nordisk, Oxford Biomedica or Cancer Research UK, an expression of interest form (EOI) will be required. In this instance, the relevant partners will be contributing up to 50% of the £75K per project. Please see below for more details.
Applicants should note that the University Challenge Seed Fund will open on Thursday 6 April and the Oxford University Innovation (OUI) will accept applications based on a first-come-first-served basis. The call will close on Wednesday 24 May 2023. The 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.
Projects should be in the region of 6-12 months, with funding for 12 month projects requiring full justification. Awards must commence within 2 months 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.
Please note that this year we have introduced a new rule imposing a cap on the maximum number of applications that are allowed per applicant to be two applications named as PI or co-PI. A maximum of two applications are permitted 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.
Research priority areas for Oxford Biomedica, Novo Nordisk and CRUK will be presented at our launch event, at The Translational Research Symposium on Thursday 23 March. This will provide potential applicants opportunity to discuss their proposals and ask questions in-person with research scientists from Oxford Biomedica, Novo Nordisk or CRUK. The full programme and link to register for the event will be circulated soon.
The Novo Nordisk Innovation Fund will be running for the fourth consecutive year. Projects addressing unmet patient need in diabetes and other cardiometabolic disease (obesity, cardiovascular, liver and renal disease) as well as within the field of rare endocrine and rare non-malignant blood diseases are eligible to apply for this stream. High priority will be given to projects that will identify and/or robustly validate novel targets in relevant diseases and to projects using computational approaches. Researchers with relevant programmes of activity are strongly encouraged to apply to this stream.
The Oxford Biomedica Innovation Fund will be running for the third consecutive year alongside MLSTF. Projects focusing on the development of the platform for Advanced Medicinal Therapy Products are encouraged to apply here. Oxford Biomedica are particularly interested in platform technologies such as lentiviral vectors, AAV, and lipid nanoparticles with a particular interest in vectorology, cell line development and process development. Researchers with relevant programmes of activity are strongly encouraged to apply.
Applying to Novo Nordisk or Oxford Biomedica Innovation Funds
To facilitate the co-development of projects with an appropriate Novo Nordisk researcher or an Oxford Biomedica researcher, Oxford-based investigators should submit a non-confidential Expression of Interest (EOI) to the Translational Research Office (TRO) by 1pm on Monday 3 April. This EOI should provide a summary of the proposed project, including a summary of supporting background data, objectives and proposed outcomes of the project and a justification for support explaining how your proposal is aligned to the priority areas of Novo Nordisk or Oxford Biomedica as identified above. Please use the relevant online submission forms below.
It is anticipated that Novo Nordisk and Oxford Biomedica will each be co-funding two projects through this scheme in 2023. Intellectual property rights arising from NNIF-supported projects and OXBIF-supported projects will vest in the University of Oxford, with Novo Nordisk or Oxford Biomedica having a time-limited first right to negotiate an appropriate commercial licence. For further information please contact the TRO, email@example.com.
Co-funding with Cancer Research UK
The TRO is pleased to announce the continuation of the CRUK co-funding strand this year. This funding will specifically support the translation of CRUK-funded research projects ONLY. Applicants will have an opportunity to leverage CRUK’s Project Development Funds after authorisation by CRUK at the EOI stage. A key requirement for this funding strand is that the funding would need to be used to deliver key go/no-go experiments for filing a patent and/or a key inflection point to enable the next step in translational development/commercialisation. It is expected that the investigator would be willing to openly co-operate with Cancer Research Horizons (CRUK’s technology transfer office) to develop the IP strategy of the novel technology. This EOI should provide a summary of the proposed project, including a summary of supporting background data, objectives and proposed outcomes of the project and a justification for support explaining how your proposal is aligned to the priority areas of CRUK as identified above.
To facilitate the co-development of projects with CRUK, Oxford-based investigators are instructed to contact the TRO (firstname.lastname@example.org) to schedule in an informal EOI discussion with CRUK between Thursday 2 - Thursday 23 March. A representative from CRUK will also be present at the Translational Research Symposium on Thursday 23 March should potential applicants wish to interact further. If selected, applicants will be encouraged to submit an application to the MLSTF call and this will be reviewed by both CRUK and MLSTF panels (deadline: Tuesday 9 May, 1pm) to leverage funding from both schemes.
Co-funding with BBSRC IAA
For life sciences researchers with underpinning research funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), there is an opportunity to access some BBSRC-IAA funding. Please contact the TRO to further discuss eligibility for funding through the BBSRC-IAA.