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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), and Wellcome 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 and Wellcome. In 2021, the project managed fund will be in excess of £500k to ‘pump-prime’ the translation of novel therapeutics, devices, diagnostics and other therapeutic interventions (including ‘repurposing of existing therapies’) toward clinical testing.

Following the success of MLSTF 2020, the Novo Nordisk Innovation Fund call will continue to run alongside MLSTF this 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.

The University of Oxford and Oxford Biomedica are pleased to announce the new Oxford Biomedica Innovation Fund which will run alongside MLSTF as a pilot funding stream in 2021. Projects focusing on the development of Advanced Medicinal Therapy Products are encouraged to apply. Oxford Biomedica are particularly interested in platform technologies such as lentivirus vectors, AAV, and lipid nanoparticles. Therapeutic areas of interest include gene and cell therapies in oncology, liver and neurology.

This year also welcomes an additional co-funding opportunity with Cancer Research UK (CRUK). This strand of funding will specifically support the translation of CRUK-funded research projects at Oxford. Applicants will have an opportunity to apply for CRUK’s Project Development Funds after authorisation by CRUK at the EOI stage.

The Call for proposals and a copy of the Case for support form (also available through IRAMS) can be found here:

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 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.

Format

It is envisaged that the available funds will finance in the region of 8-10 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. Applicants should note that the University Challenge Seed Fund is currently open for applications (closing date: Thursday 2 September 2021). Researchers should engage with both the TRO and Oxford University Innovation 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 and Wellcome 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

Novo Nordisk Innovation Fund

Novo Nordisk Logo

The Novo Nordisk Innovation Fund will be running for again this year under the umbrella of MLSTF. 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. Proposals should have or aim for strong human relevance (such as the use of human data, genetics and cells/tissues). Novo Nordisk are also interested in novel therapeutic modality development and drug delivery technologies, including technologies for oral delivery of peptides and proteins, technologies for intracellular delivery or tissue targeting of drugs as well as novel gene therapy approaches. Researchers with relevant programmes of activity are strongly encouraged to apply.

Oxford Biomedica Innovation Fund (OXBIF)

The Oxford Biomedica Innovation Fund will be running as a pilot funding stream in 2021 alongside MLSTF. Projects focusing on the development of Advanced Medicinal Therapy Products are encouraged to apply here. Oxford Biomedica are particularly interested in platform technologies such as lentivirus vectors, AAV, and lipid nanoparticles. Therapeutic areas of interest include, gene and cell therapies in oncology, liver and neurology. Researchers with relevant programmes of activity are strongly encouraged to apply.

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 12pm on Wednesday 15 September 2021. 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.

Submit an Expression of Interest to the Novo Nordisk Innovation Fund

Submit an Expression of Interest to the Oxford Biomedica Innovation Fund

Funding provided will be in line with MLSTF, up to £75k per project with awards being made for direct costs only. It is anticipated that Novo Nordisk and Oxford Biomedica will each be co-funding two projects through this scheme in 2021. 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 (translationalresearchoffice@medsci.ox.ac.uk).

Co-funding with Cancer Research UK

The TRO is pleased to announce 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 CRUK’s technology transfer office to develop the IP strategy of the novel technology.

There is no EOI form for CRUK. However, interested applicants are encouraged to contact the TRO to schedule in a meeting with CRUK for non-confidential discussions to see if their proposal is eligible for the CRUK-MLSTF co-funding route. The EOI window is from 23 August to 15 September.