The diagnosis, prevention and treatment of orphan and neglected diseases present an unmet medical need. To address the obstacles of product development research in these areas, the Wellcome Trust is seeking to fund pilot studies to develop assets and de-risk future development.
The Pathfinder Award Scheme is intended to kick-start pilot projects that have significant potential to help develop innovative new products in these disease areas. In the scheme, an academic lead (or a lead from a not-for-profit entity) will build on or establish a partnership with a company that has specialist knowledge and access to technologies to facilitate the development of a specific product.
The company partner needs to provide evidence that it has previously developed and subsequently taken a product to market. In addition, the company needs to provide a matching funding contribution.
Projects covering any aspect of product development for neglected and orphan diseases could be considered.
At the end of the Pathfinder Award, the innovation should be a credible asset ready to be developed further by the company and/or be competitive for another Technology Transfer awards scheme, through which substantial resources may be sought.
Priorities for the Pathfinder Award scheme are:
- encouraging effective partnership between a public sector applicant (academic or not-for-profit entity) and a company partner
- building credible assets by funding quality pilot studies
- stimulating product development in difficult diseases, which could ultimately improve the outlook for patients afflicted by orphan and neglected diseases
- encouraging the development of paediatric products
- sharing knowledge and experience to de-risk early-stage projects.
In the context of this scheme:
- neglected diseases are those listed in the Global Funding of Innovation for Neglected Diseases (G-FINDER) report and website
- orphan indications are those listed by the NIH Office of Rare Diseases Research.
- Useful advice for European orphan designation can be accessed on the EuropeanMedicines Agency website.
Pathfinder Awards are intended to facilitate requests that would be normally be considered too early for funding under the Wellcome Trust’s other translational funding schemes. They might be used to support the clinical development of any products, including drugs, biologics, medical devices, enabling technologies and vaccines. The focus of the scheme this time is on orphan and neglected diseases and where no current therapy exists or where the proposed product will be superior to the existing options.
The project duration will be a maximum of 18 months from the agreed commencement date.
The Wellcome Trust contribution to the partnership will be capped at £100 000. Evidence of a matching funding contribution from the company partner will be expected.
In most cases:
- awards will be made directly to the company (industry lead)
- awards will cover the costs relating directly to the programme proposed
- requests to cover subsistence for a lead academic applicant spending time at a company and/or a postdoctoral salary for carrying out work at a company will be considered
- equipment, building or refurbishment expenditure will not be eligible
- working capital costs incurred by the company will not be eligible.
If you hold a tenured academic university post, you cannot re-charge your salary (in full or in part) to a Pathfinder Award.
Applicants should contact Technology Transfer to confirm that the proposed partnership is eligible before submitting a full application form.
1. Projects must address an unmet need in a neglected or orphan disease. The proposed project should aim to build credible assets that would be competitive to attract further investment by the company or funding schemes provided by Technology Transfer.
2. The concept to be tested must be at a stage where an application for a full award through Technology Transfer’s current funding schemes is unlikely to succeed because it is too early; however, it must not be so early that at the end of the pilot work it would still be premature to compete for full funding under such schemes.
3. There should be a strong project focus (not a pipeline or undefined future scope of work).
4. The scheme will not support:
- target validation
- ‘blue skies’ or curiosity-driven research
- late-stage programmes already developed to a point where funding from commercial or venture sources could readily be sought to complete the pathway to market.
1. Applications should establish or build on a partnership between a public sector applicant (from either an academic or a not-for-profit entity) and an industry (company) partner.
2. The company needs to demonstrate it has the means to support the research through to a credible exit (i.e. to an exit that ensures a public benefit can be realised by a downstream development partner, whether that is the company itself or a third party). Evidence that the company has previously developed and subsequently taken to market one or more product lines arising from its own research and development is required.
3. The Wellcome Trust contribution to the partnership will be capped at £100 000 with a minimum matching funding contribution from the company (in cash and/or in kind).
4. The company will normally be the recipient of these funds.
5. There are no geographical restrictions. Applications are welcome from appropriate public sector-company partnerships in a global setting.
6. By submitting a full application, all parties are agreeing to the Supplementary Grant Conditions that govern the Pathfinder Award scheme.
7. The partners are encouraged to enter into their own internal agreements detailing how they will manage confidentiality, the commercialisation of the programme and intellectual property within the boundaries of the conditions governing the Pathfinder Awards.
8. The lead applicants should normally hold a position of responsibility within the eligible organisations and must be able to agree and comply with the conditions governing the Pathfinder Award scheme.
9. Postdoctoral research assistants - whether seeking their own salary as part of the Pathfinder Award, funded by the Wellcome Trust on another grant or funded by another agency - are eligible for coapplicant status if they make a significant contribution to a research proposal and have agreement from their funding agency.
10. If there are any restrictions on intellectual property or publications arising from your research, you must provide a written statement that details them. In the event that intellectual property is generated, the company shall retain responsibility for filing, prosecution, maintaining and enforcing the intellectual property on behalf of the partnership in the first instance.
To maintain momentum, Pathfinder Awards will be processed in the shortest time possible, as described below.
There is no preliminary application phase.
Applicants should submit a full application (see the Forms and guidance tab) to firstname.lastname@example.org before the next deadline (See Deadlines tab).
Applicants should contact the office to confirm that the proposed partnership is eligible before submitting a full application form.
Full applications will be considered by a dedicated internal Pathfinders Assessment Group and independent external experts. There will be four rolling deadlines in a 12-month period, subject to available budget in the current financial year.
Please note that by submitting an application the parties agree to the terms outlined in the Supplementary Grant Conditions for the Pathfinder Award scheme.
The next deadline for Pathfinder Award applications will be announced early in 2013.
There will be four rolling deadlines in a 12-month period, subject to available budget in the current financial year.
For informal enquires or to confirm the eligibility of a proposed partnership, please contact Technology Transfer and quote PATHFINDERS in connection with your enquiry.
The Wellcome Trust
215 Euston Road. London NW1 2BE
T +44 (0)20 7611 8202
F +44 (0)20 7611 8857
Forms and Guidance
- Information and guidance notes for applicants [Word 353KB]
- Application form [Word 350KB]
- Supplementary Grant conditions that govern the Pathfinder Award Scheme [Word 85KB]
- Information on full economic costing in UK universities
- Allowed costs
- Disallowed costs