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Seeding Drug Discovery

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Funding to facilitate early-stage small-molecule drug discovery. The awards help applicants with a potential drug target or new chemistry embark on a programme of compound discovery and/or take later stage projects towards clinical trials.
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The aim of Seeding Drug Discovery is to develop drug-like, small molecules that will be the springboard for further research and development by the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry in areas of unmet medical need.A two-point entry system has been introduced to enable projects at an earlier stage in development to be competitive for funding as well as to progress later-stage projects further towards clinical trials.

What's included

Project duration will be determined by how advanced the project is.

Early-stage drug discovery projects (Screen to Lead) are able to apply for funding for up to two years to facilitate screening of chemical compounds to identify one or more lead series of molecules.

Late-stage (Lead to Clinical) projects, where a lead compound has already been identified, are able to apply for funding for up to four years, to support lead optimisation and preclinical development through to clinical trials.

See the Forms and Guidance tab on this page for details on what is and is not included in an award.


Projects must address an unmet need in healthcare or in applied medical research, offer a potential new solution, and have a realistic expectation that the innovation will be developed further by the market.Proposals are welcome from academic and commercial organisations based in the UK and overseas.


Eligible institutions are not-for-profit research institutions, including those funded by the Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, in the UK, that are able to sign up to our Grant Conditions.


We are able to use our charitable monies to fund commercial companies to meet our charitable objectives through programme-related investment (PRI). For further details please refer to our policy on PRI [PDF 38KB]. Companies will normally be expected to sign up to specific terms relating the scheme (see the Forms and Guidance tab on this page).

Principal applicants and coapplicants

Applicants should normally hold a position of responsibility within the eligible organisation and be able to sign up to or comply with the conditions or terms of an award.

In addition, postdoctoral research assistants - whether seeking their own salary as part of the grant proposal, 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.

Application process

A preliminary application form should be completed and returned to Innovations by the published deadline.

Applications will be considered at one of the two Seeding Drug Discovery Committee meetings in each 12-month period.

Successful applicants will be shortlisted and invited to complete a full application, which is subject to international peer review by members of our Innovations Advisory Group.

Under the new two-entry point scheme a successful early-stage project will be eligible to apply for further Seeding Drug Discovery funding as a late-stage project, without the need to repeat the preliminary application and triage process

Application advice

Innovations staff will be pleased to assist with any enquiries concerning the Seeding Drug Discovery initiative.

The Information for Applicants document contains details of the scheme and guidance on the questions contained in the forms. This can be found on Forms and Guidance tab on this page together with specimen application forms and other helpful guidance notes.


Preliminary applications may be submitted twice a year.

The deadlines for preliminary applications, together with their corresponding review dates, are set out below:

Preliminary deadline


Funding decision for invited full proposal

5 November 2014


21-22 May 2015

5 June 2015


22-23 October 2015

All applications received by 17.00 GMT on the deadline date will be considered.

The review process is set out in the information for applicants.


Wellcome Trust
Gibbs Building
215 Euston Road
London NW1 2BE, UK

T +44 (0)20 7611 5757
+44 (0)20 7611 8857

Wellcome Trust, Gibbs Building, 215 Euston Road, London NW1 2BE, UK T:+44 (0)20 7611 8888