Case for support form (DOCX, 81KB).
Applicant information form (DOCX, 82KB).
The Nucleic Acid Therapy Accelerator (NATA) is a £30 million investment awarded by the UK’s Strategic Priorities Fund to support and accelerate the development of NAT. The NATA programme works in partnership with international industry and academic organisations and is being delivered by MRC, part of UKRI.
The NATA programme consists of two main offerings to the UK research and innovation community:
- the NATA Hub, which offers world-leading, state-of-the-art NAT research infrastructure
- substantive programme grants to address two focused research challenges representing major barriers to NAT development.
About the NATA Hub
NATA Hub is a new UK research centre based on the Harwell Research Campus, Oxfordshire. It comprises state-of-the-art chemistry and biology capability to collaboratively address bottlenecks in NAT development.
The hub is disease agnostic, with an initial focus on short oligonucleotide therapeutics. This includes antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) and small interfering RNAs (siRNAs).
NATA Hub’s initial areas of interest include:
- tissue specific targeting
- endosomal escape
- novel manufacture methodologies
- new advanced conjugate modalities.
NATA Hub’s toolbox and techniques will help answer the main questions about NAT translational development, including:
- consultation on sequence design and chemical modification patterns of oligonucleotides:
- ASOs, gapmer and blockers
- manufacture, purification and characterisation of natural and modified oligonucleotides, including:
- new chemical modifications for nucleosides and nucleotides
- new modalities, including new ligands and conjugation methods
- fluorescently labelled oligonucleotides for microscopy
- detection and quantification of oligonucleotides in biological samples
- expertise in detection and characterisation of trace impurities after synthesis or identification of metabolites after incubation or systemic injection via high-resolution mass spectrometry
- expertise in assessing pre-clinical issues relating to toxicology, tissue distribution, efficacy, specificity, and drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics (DMPK)
- fine-grained analysis of spatial distribution within tissues
- fine-grained analysis of cell type specific uptake and efficacy
- high throughput transcriptome-wide off-target and toxicity profiling
- high throughput in vitro screening (efficacy and toxicity)
There will be a workshop on 2 March 2022 where shortlisted applicants will have the opportunity to:
- meet NATA representatives
- hear more about the NATA Hub’s capabilities and available equipment
- learn how to explore options for collaboration.
NATA Research Challenge programme
NATA’s Research Challenge programme grants will enable and accelerate early stage innovation for nucleic acid therapy development, developing and disseminating platform technologies that will clear the way for the next generation of precision medicines.
A total of up to £12 million funding will support two consortia.
One consortium will address limitations in the manufacture of synthetic NATs. The manufacture research challenge funding opportunity is in progress and the successful consortium award will be made in early 2022.
The second research challenge addressing barriers to NAT delivery is represented through this funding opportunity.
Industry involvement and available funding
MRC is keen for industry to be actively involved in consortia and, while we expect that large companies would support their own costs, we are willing to consider requests for funding from small or medium companies involved in the consortia.
These requests will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis and will need to be accompanied by an explanation at the full application stage as to:
- why the involvement of the company is essential to the success of the consortia
- how the funding to the company will be used to support the objectives of the consortia
- why the company is not able to support the costs themselves.
We may also undertake financial checks on companies requesting funding to ensure that the company is not in financial difficulty. MRC reserves the right to adapt the funding model available to companies to comply with future UK subsidy control rules. If this is necessary, MRC will communicate with applicants during the application process.
MRC recognises that IP considerations will vary across each consortium. We support the formation of appropriate governance structures that principally facilitate the delivery of a programme’s science, while managing background and arising IP for the benefit of the consortium and the UK. As such, MRC will expect each consortium to put in place a collaboration agreement before MRC provides funding to the successful consortium.
Whilst the exact provisions included in the agreement will require discussion by the consortium, MRC has some principles in relation to the management of IP which it expects to be taken into consideration. These principles can be discussed in more detail during the application process.
To summarise, the collaboration agreement should ensure that each partner has the rights to use any background and arising IP to deliver the research planned by the consortium. MRC would expect the consortium to jointly agree and coordinate the protection and commercialisation of arising IP. It will take into consideration how access to background IP may be achieved if needed for commercialisation and ensuring that academic consortium members and the wider academic community are and remain able to use arising IP.
Depending on contributions made, it may be appropriate for industry consortium members to be granted rights to use arising IP for internal research purposes and an option mechanism to take licences for commercial purposes. However, MRC would expect that any arising IP that is of general applicability or utility would only be licensed non-exclusively for commercial purposes to ensure the widest possible impact.
Supplementary to the standard UKRI grant conditions, additional conditions will be added to this funding opportunity. These will include, but are not limited to the following conditions.
This award is contingent upon meeting the progression milestones set out at the full application stage. Failure to meet progression milestones may result in termination of the award at the discretion of MRC. Spending on the grant should be limited to work detailed within the programme plans for the active milestone.
Without specific prior written approval, MRC will not reimburse the host institution for the costs of any work contributing to a later milestone should it be decided that the criteria of an active milestone have not been met and the programme is terminated.
Changes to programme plan
If issues or problems arise prior to or during the course of the funded programme that could potentially result in the inability to achieve the programme objectives or milestone, the issue, as well as proposed solutions, should be promptly communicated to MRC.
MRC requires that the programme team provide advance notification of any proposed change to the programme plan, including significant changes in milestone criteria, grant length or cost, in writing. Requests may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Changes must be approved by MRC prior to them being implemented. Please note, due to the milestone-driven nature of the project, the process for change requests differs from other MRC schemes. Please do not submit your request through Je-S.
Reporting and expenditure profiles
Expenditure profiles will be agreed before the programme commences.
The awarded consortium must provide quarterly progress reports covering the programme’s delivery against objectives, success criteria and milestones. Financial reporting on to-date and forecast expenditure, in addition to risks to delivery, will also be captured in quarterly reports.
It is the responsibility of the host organisation to ensure the research programme remains on the expected profile. Research organisations must inform MRC of material slippage or cost savings as soon as possible. MRC reserves the right to suspend or reprofile a grant if spend does not closely match allocation.
External advisory board
Grant holders must establish an external advisory board, or equivalent body, to act as a ‘critical friend’ and provide advice on the running of the consortium, its research and related activities.
This board must meet with grant holders at least annually. Before the meeting the grant holders must provide the external advisory board with an annual written report, detailing the project’s:
- progress against programme objectives and milestones
- risks and mitigation strategy
- outputs and training
- outreach and professional development activities.
Each advisory board meeting will include UKRI observers and will be chaired by the NATA Executive Director when in post. NATA or MRC will provide secretariat for the external advisory board.
Grant holders must establish a commercialisation committee with representation from all consortium members and NATA to coordinate the protection and commercialisation of arising IP, including approval of commercialisation agreements.
Final expenditure statement
It is the responsibility of the principal investigator to submit a final expenditure statement and a project end report at the end of the grant. The final payment will be withheld until the final expenditure statement and the project end report are received. Failure to submit may result in financial sanctions.
This funding opportunity is part of the wider NATA programme, funded by the Strategic Priorities Fund. In line with the fund’s business case, the NATA programme and grant holders funded by the programme must adhere to the evaluation requirements set by the fund.