Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Developmental Pathway Funding Scheme

Apply for funding to develop and test novel therapeutics, medical devices, diagnostics and other interventions.

You must:

  • be based at a research organisation eligible for MRC funding
  • meet individual eligibility requirements

Your project can start and finish at any stage on the developmental pathway from early development, through pre-clinical refinement and testing to early-phase clinical studies and trials (up to phase 2a).

There’s no limit on the amount of funding you can apply for, but it should be appropriate to the project. We usually fund 80% of a project’s full economic cost.

This is an ongoing scheme.

Who can apply

You should be a researcher employed at an eligible research organisation for the entire duration of the project. These include:

  • higher education institutions
  • UK Research and Innovation-approved independent research organisations or NHS bodies
  • government-funded organisations
  • institutes at MRC Harwell, the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences and the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology
  • MRC units and partnership institutes
  • institutes and units funded by other research councils
  • public sector research establishments

To apply as the principal investigator, you must:

  • be able to take responsibility for the leadership of the research project
  • hold at least a graduate degree. Principal investigators are usually expected to have a PhD

For more details concerning researcher eligibility, see the MRC guidance for applicants.

What we're looking for

You can apply for academically-led translational projects that aim to either:

  • improve prevention, diagnosis, prognosis or treatment of significant health needs
  • develop research tools that increase the efficiency of developing interventions

All diseases and interventions are eligible for support. You can also address global health issues.

Your project can start and finish at any stage on the developmental pathway from early development, through pre-clinical refinement and testing to early-phase clinical studies and trials (up to phase 2a). You can submit follow-on proposals where you can justify the need for continued support.

You can apply for funding for work on novel:

  • candidate therapeutic entities (for example, drug discovery)
  • vaccines for infectious or non-infectious disease
  • biologics (antibodies, peptides, proteins)
  • advanced therapeutics (for example, gene therapy and T-cell therapy)
  • regenerative medicine approaches
  • repurposing clinical studies or using existing therapies for new indications
  • medical devices
  • digital healthcare, app development or artificial intelligence
  • diagnostics (including biomarker validation)
  • medical imaging technology
  • surgical techniques or tools
  • behavioural and psychological interventions
  • radiotherapy and radiation protocols
  • interventions that benefit health in low and middle-income countries

This funding opportunity will not support:

  • fundamental or investigative research not linked to a development plan (supported by the MRC science areas)
  • clinical studies where the main aim is to investigate disease mechanism (supported by the MRC Experimental Medicine Panel)
  • late-phase clinical trials (supported by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) efficacy and mechanism evaluation and NIHR health technology assessment programmes)
  • late-phase global health trials (supported by applied global health)

Learn about:

Length and limit of funding

There is no limit to the amount of funding you can apply for, or the length of your project. You should instead justify the timescale and resources needed in the context of the proposed work.

Collaborations

We encourage working with charities or industry partners where these partnerships can add value to the project.

Collaborators may add value by giving access to:

  • expertise
  • technologies
  • reagents
  • funding

Please note that collaboration is not a prerequisite for application.

Applications involving industry collaboration

If your application involves the collaboration of 1 or more industrial partners, you should review the information published within the MRC industry collaboration framework (ICF) to decide if you should submit your application under the ICF.

After reading the ICF information, if you decide that your application will include industry collaboration, you will need to include the following within your application for each collaborating industry partner:

The completed ICF form should be uploaded to the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system attachments section using the ‘MICA form’ document type. Please type ‘Industry Collaboration Framework form’ in the description box.

The company letter of support must use the available template and be uploaded to the relevant project partner entry you are required to add to your Je-S application.

How to apply

You must apply using the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system.

You can find advice on completing your application in the Je-S handbook.

We recommend you start your application early.

Your host organisation will also be able to provide advice and guidance.

Submitting your application

Before starting an application, you will need to log in or create an account in Je-S.

When applying:

  1. Select ‘documents’, then ‘new document’.
  2. Select ‘call search’.
  3. To find the opportunity, search for: Developmental Pathway Funding Scheme (DPFS) outline Mar 2023.

This will populate:

  • council: MRC
  • document type: outline proposal
  • scheme: Biomedical catalyst DPFS outline
  • call/type/mode: Developmental Pathway Funding Scheme (DPFS) outline Mar 2023

You must use our outline case for support form (Word, 268KB) for your Je-S application.

Once you have completed your application, make sure you ‘submit document’.

You can save completed details in Je-S at any time and return to continue your application later.

Deadline

MRC must receive your outline application by 22 March 2023 4pm UK time.

You will not be able to apply after this time. Please leave enough time for your proposal to pass through your organisation’s Je-S submission route before this date.

You should ensure you are aware of and follow any internal institutional deadlines that may be in place.

Attachments

Along with the outline case for support, you will also need to include the following mandatory attachments with your Je-S application:

  • CVs of up to 2 sides of A4 each for:
    • principal investigator
    • co-investigators
    • researcher co-investigators
    • named research staff
  • list of publications of up to 1 side of A4 each for:
    • principal investigator
    • co-investigators
    • researcher co-investigators
    • named research staff
  • Gantt chart showing your work plan (1 side of A4)
  • letter of support from your organisation’s technology transfer office, or equivalent (up to 2 sides of A4)
  • supporting data (up to 2 sides of A4)

The following attachments are mandatory if they apply to your project:

  • feedback letter (up to 5 sides of A4) if your project is a resubmission
  • industrial collaboration framework (ICF) form: if your project involves industrial partner collaboration (upload to Je-S using attachment type ‘MICA form’)
  • industrial collaboration letter of support: if your project involves industrial partner collaboration
  • small molecule supplementary information form: if you are seeking funding for hit-to-lead and lead optimisation projects

Optional attachments include:

  • letters of support from key collaborators or partners (up to 2 sides of A4 each)
  • letters of support for research co-investigators (up to 2 sides of A4 each) to highlight the support and career development that will be provided for any included research co-investigators
  • risk table (up to 1 side of A4) which can be used in place of part 6.9 of the case for support form

Please read our guidance for outline stage applicants (PDF, 333KB) for full details before applying.

If successful at the outline stage, you will be invited to submit a full application. We will send you guidance on completing a full application at this next stage.

The minimum time from outline submission to full decision is approximately 26 weeks. However, you can choose to defer your full submission by 1 round which would add approximately 16 weeks.

How we will assess your application

Your application will be assessed in a 2-stage process. Your outline proposal will first be considered by an independent panel of experts.

Successful outline applicants will be invited to submit a full proposal.

Should your outline proposal be declined, you cannot resubmit the same or a similar application to the developmental pathway funding (DPFS) scheme within 12 months of the original application deadline.

In exceptional circumstances, the panel may give positive feedback, whereby the proposal is declined, but the 12-month moratorium on a resubmission is waived.

Please note that the decisions of the DPFS panel will not be open to appeal, and that MRC reserves the right to amend the application process.

See the developmental pathway funding scheme panel membership.

Panel assessment areas

The panel will assess your outline proposal based on the following areas:

  • clinical or medical need: whether the need is significant and whether the proposal has an advantage over competing solutions
  • rationale: the strength of the rationale and supporting evidence for why the proposed solution will meet the targeted need
  • deliverability:
    • how realistic the proposed development plan is and whether it is likely to answer the question or address the need identified
    • whether the team has access to the necessary assets and expertise to deliver the planned work and whether the proposal offers good value for money
  • intellectual property: whether there is an appropriate intellectual property strategy in place to facilitate downstream development, clinical uptake or commercialisation

Projects with no clear and plausible development plan of their proposed route to market or patient benefit after this award are unlikely to be supportable.

Next steps

If successful, you will be invited to submit a full proposal. This will undergo an external peer review before a further and more detailed review by the panel.

All applicants will receive feedback from the assessment process within 8 weeks of the panel meeting.

Contact details

Get help with developing your proposal

For help and advice on costings and writing your proposal, please contact your research office in the first instance, allowing sufficient time for your organisation’s submission process.

Ask about this funding opportunity

Email: dpfsanddcs@mrc.ukri.org

We encourage you to get in touch with the relevant programme manager to discuss your proposal ideas.

Small molecules and other drugs

Dr Adam Babbs

Email: adam.babbs@mrc.ukri.org

Biomarkers, diagnostics and psychological therapies

Dr Tim Ellis

Email: tim.ellis@mrc.ukri.org

Medical and therapeutic devices

Dr Agnes Leong

Email: agnes.leong@mrc.ukri.org

Advanced therapeutics: vectors, gene, nucleic acid and siRNA therapies

Dr Penny Morton

Email: penny.morton@mrc.ukri.org

Antibodies, proteins and peptide therapeutics

Dr Alex Phillips

Email: alexandra.phillips@mrc.ukri.org

Digital health, software development, artificial intelligence tools, imaging and regenerative medicine

Dr Suzanne Rix

Email: suzanne.rix@mrc.ukri.org

Drug and small molecule repurposing studies

Dr Sophie Liddell

Email: sophie.liddell@mrc.ukri.org

Get help with applying through Je-S

Email

jeshelp@je-s.ukri.org

Telephone

01793 444164

Opening times

Je-S helpdesk opening times

Additional info

Resources

You may find the following organisations and resources useful when preparing an application.

The MRC Regulatory Support Centre acts as a hub for advice and resources around research using human participants, their tissues, or data.

The National Institute for Health and Care Research provides a clinical trials toolkit that gives practical advice to those planning or running clinical trials in the UK.

Applicants considering a drug repurposing project may wish to explore the Repurposing Medicines Toolkit, developed by MRC and LifeArc.

The MHRA Innovation Office provides free advice to clarify regulatory requirements from an early stage of product development.

The NHS Innovation Service acts as an information gateway to support people developing new innovative products, services or initiatives in healthcare.

The MRC-LifeArc Innovation Hubs for Gene Therapies Network supports academic-led early phase clinical development of gene therapies through manufacturing of GMP viral vector, translational and regulatory support, and manufacturing development support ahead of clinical development.

The Nucleic Acid Therapy Accelerator (NATA) provides dedicated research capability, infrastructure and support to enable advances in the development of nucleic acid therapeutics.

Supporting documents

Outline proposal form (Word, 268KB)

Guidance for outline stage applicants (PDF, 333KB)

Small molecule supplementary information form (Word, 71KB)

General guidance for applicants

This is the integrated website of the seven research councils, Research England and Innovate UK.
Let us know if you have feedback or would like to help us test new developments.