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Grants for Orphan Disease Academic-Industry Partnerships

Test tubes (Håkan Dahlström/Flickr)The Wellcome Trust in the U.K. has unveiled new funding for academic-industry partnerships in early-stage research and development projects targeting orphan and neglected diseases. The Pathfinder Awards aim to encourage pilot research projects with potential for developing new products that address diseases affecting a small percentage of the population (orphan diseases) or conditions that that disproportionately affect people in low-income countries (neglected diseases).

The grants aim to support joint ventures between companies and researchers from academic or not-for-profit organizations, either existing collaborations or new partnerships established for this program. The Wellcome Trust says grants will be made to projects that would normally be considered too early in the process for the group’s other translational funding programs. The awards are expected to support clinical development of products like drugs, biologics, medical devices, and vaccines.

Most grants are expected to be made to the industry partners. Companies need to demonstrate that they can support the research through a credible exit, defined as developing a product or service with a public benefit either by themselves or through a third party. Industry partners are expected to show that they have previously developed and taken to market products based on their research.

The Wellcome Trust plans to cap its contribution to any partnership at £100,000 ($US 158,000) with a minimum matching contribution expected from the company, either in cash or in kind. The funds awarded are expected to cover the costs relating directly to the research project proposed, although subsistence for a lead academic applicant spending time at a company or a postdoctoral salary for carrying out work at a company will be considered.

The group expects to set four rolling deadlines in a 12-month period, subject to the availability of funds. There is no preliminary application phase, although candidates are urged to first confirm with the Wellcome Trust that their proposed teams are eligible. The next deadline is 2 April 2012, with notifications made in June 2012.

Read more: Genomics Consortium Adds Two Members, Gains $49 Million

Photo: Håkan Dahlström/Flickr

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