Biomedical Catalyst: Developmental Pathway Funding Scheme (DPFS) outline: Mar 2020
DPFS is an ongoing scheme, with outline deadlines every 4 months.
Further details of open and future DPFS deadlines can be found on the submission deadlines page for the scheme.
The DPFS scheme is a key part of our Translational Research Strategy and supports the translation of fundamental discoveries toward benefits to human health. It funds the pre-clinical development and early clinical testing of novel therapeutics, devices and diagnostics, including “repurposing” of existing therapies.
The scheme supports academically led projects whose goals are to improve prevention, diagnosis, prognosis, or treatment of significant health needs, or that focus on developing research tools that increase the efficiency of developing interventions.
Projects supported by the scheme have up to four clearly defined milestones, outcomes and future plans. These help to maximise both the chance of success and the likelihood of the project attracting the downstream funding, from public or private sources, required to meet its clinical and commercial aims. The funding panels assessing the project will, if necessary, help to develop proposals and suggest enhancements.
The following activities are eligible for support:
- Developing candidate therapeutic entities (e.g. drug discovery)
- Pre-clinical testing of novel therapeutic entities
- Early-phase clinical studies of novel therapeutic entities (phases 1 and 2)
- “Repurposing” clinical studies – using existing therapies for new indications
- Developing and testing novel devices
- Developing and testing diagnostics (including biomarker validation)
Individual projects can start and finish at any point along the translational pathway but would not typically progress from initial development through to phase 2 clinical testing in a single application. Where there is a justified need for continued MRC support, sequential applications are encouraged.
All disease areas (including those relevant to global health) and modalities of intervention are eligible for support from the scheme, including small molecules, peptides, antibodies, vaccines, regenerative medicine, cell and gene therapy, devices, surgical techniques and psychological approaches.
Funding to support projects whose goals are to provide the evidence needed to submit a mature, substantial, request to develop regenerative medicine therapies is available through the Regenerative Medicine Research Committee and should be directed to that scheme.
The following activities are ineligible for support:
- Fundamental or investigative research not linked to a development plan (supported by the Research Boards
- Clinical studies where the primary purpose is to investigate disease mechanism (supported by the Research Boards
- Late-phase clinical trials (supported by the MRC-NIHR Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation Programme and the NIHR Health Technology Assessment Programme)
- Late-phase global health trials (supported by the Global Health Trials Programme and the Joint Global Health Trials Scheme).
The following condition applies to this scheme, in addition to our normal rules:
- Individuals may be the principal investigator (the named, lead applicant) on one application per round.
Please note that there is no formal limit to the total amount that can be requested in a DPFS grant – all costs should be fully justified within a proposal and the Panel will assess value for money in the context of the proposed work.
Applications including partnerships with charities or industry are encouraged where these add value to the project – for example, in terms of access to expertise, technologies, reagents or funding. Please note that industrial collaboration is not a prerequisite for application.
Applications involving collaboration with industry should adhere to the MRC Industry Collaboration Agreement guidance. The lead applicant must be the academic partner, and the MRC will meet the academic costs of the project only.
Proposals are assessed in a two-stage process. The first step involves review of an outline proposal (download the outline Case for Support form here). Successful outline applicants are invited to submit a full application, which undergoes external peer review before a further, more detailed, review by the Panel. The total assessment time for an application submitted to MRC, from outline submission to full decision, is approximately 26 weeks.
All applicants will receive feedback from the assessment process. Guidance for preparation of full proposals will be provided to successful applicants with the outline feedback.
At the full application stage, projects that focus on demonstration of efficacy in a relevant environment (e.g. human clinical human proof of concept studies) and that have significant commercial potential or impact will be assessed by the BMC Major Awards Committee (MAC); all other applications will be assessed by the BMC: DPFS Panel.
The application process for full applications assessed by the MAC incorporates two additional steps:
- Applicants have the opportunity to provide a written response to referee comments.
- Applicants are invited to give a short presentation and to respond to questions directed to them by the MAC.
Guidance for applicants
Both broad guidance on assessment criteria and governance and specific guidance on preparation of DPFS outline proposals are available. The outline Case for Support form should be downloaded directly from this page. Applicants should also review our general guidance for applicants.
For all general enquiries, please contact the DPFS Team on DPFSandDCS@mrc.ukri.org
If you have any specific queries about this funding scheme, please contact:
Dr Adam Babbs (Adam.Babbs@mrc.ukri.org )
Small molecules and drug (other)
Dr Agnes Leong (Agnes.Leong@mrc.ukri.org)
Medical devices/tech development, radiotherapy-like interventions, psychological therapies
Dr Sophie Liddell (Sophie.Liddell@mrc.ukri.org)
Biomarker diagnostic development and imaging
Dr Penny Morton (Penny.Morton@mrc.ukri.org)
Regenerative medicine, gene and cell therapies
Dr Charlotte Hall (Charlotte.Hall@mrc.ukri.org)
Proteins, peptides, vaccines and physical therapies, antibodies