A breaking story out of Travis County last week of former Chief Commercialization Officer Jerald Cobbs’ indictment brought the CPRIT controversy back into the headlines, almost a year to the day that the Peloton-related scandal broke in the news. However, this year, with the re-launching of the organization and new set of rigorous ethical guidelines for funding, CPRIT remains in the business of channeling funds to critically important cancer research and prevention initiatives.
Just this week, the Institute announced an updated Request for Application Release and Peer Review Schedule, featuring several new funding initiatives for Texas cancer researchers and product developers. The six new RFAs, which were posted on December 9th, span several different R&D areas that are clearly designed to re-ignite the commercialization arm of the organization.
The Company Relocation Product Development Awards is perhaps one of the more aggressive RFAs included in the new crop of available funding, and seeks to draw successful biotech companies toward the Texas biotech sector through funding incentives as well as the state’s proven pro-business statutes. The description reads that CPRIT ” . . . seeks applications from existing oncology-focused companies or limited partnerships with proven management teams that are willing to relocate to Texas to advance economic development and cancer care efforts in the State.” CPRIT demonstrated some success previously in leveraging funding to attract cancer biotech firms, such as with Cell Medica, who received a similar grant in 2012 and relocated to Texas this year as a result of CPRIT incentives.
Non-Texas biotech companies are not the only ones eligible for CPRIT commercialization funding, however. There is also the Established Company Product Development Awards RFA as well, which seeks to collect applications from, “. . . companies or limited partnerships located and headquartered in Texas to further the research and development of new products for the diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of cancer; to establish infrastructure that is critical to the development of a robust industry; or to fill a treatment or research gap.” One of the prevailing topics at several major biotech and life science conventions in 2013 has been the need to foster more commercialization and business investment into the world-class cancer research being done in the state. It would appear that CPRIT’s RFAs are seeking to encourage more development on the commercial side of cancer R&D.
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Additionally, CPRIT will also extend funding to new biotech business ventures through its New Company Product Development Awards RFA. The language in the RFA description is quite broad: “Eligible products or services include, but are not limited to, therapeutics, diagnostics, devices, and potential breakthrough technologies, including software and research discovery techniques. Eligible stages of research and development include translational research, proof-of-concept studies, preclinical studies, and Phase I or Phase II clinical trials. Successful applicants must be early-stage start-up companies with no previous rounds of professional institutional investment and must commit to headquarters or substantial business functions of the company in Texas and personnel sufficient to operate the Texas-based research and/or development activities of the company, along with appropriate management, relocated to or hired from within Texas.” This funding would appear to be targeted in part to researchers at top cancer institutions looking to translate their research into a commercialized product, whether that includes pharmaceuticals, drug delivery methods, new assays and diagnostics, or other medical device designs.
Last month, CPRIT announced the first funding in almost ten months for a High Impact/High Risk award that had been granted in late 2012 to Texas A&M, just before the funding freeze. CPRIT will once again look to fund audacious, new initiatives with its 2014 High-Impact/High-Risk Research Awards (HIHR). The crux of this funding award is, “to provide short-term funding to explore the feasibility of high-risk projects that, if successful, would contribute major new insights into the etiology, diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of cancers.” It is yet another example of the organization’s aggressive approach to funding audacious cancer research and development projects.
While it would seem that CPRIT’s new grants are aimed primarily at businesses and institutions, there is also a provision for individual researchers as well. The Individual Investigator Research Awards (IIRA) is designed to “. . . fund exceptionally innovative research projects with great potential impact that are directed by a single investigator.” This funding gives recourse for researchers who cannot otherwise procure funding through their own research institution to quality for state funding for cancer research projects.
Finally, CPRIT’s Research Training Award Continuation Grants for Years 4 and 5 is an extension grant for previous CPRIT awardees. These awards are open to, ” . . . eligible organizations to continue the integrated institutional Research Training Awards (RTA) for Years 4 and 5 to support promising individuals who seek specialized training in the area of cancer research. This award mechanism is open only to programs funded in 2010 pursuant to RFA R-10-RTA1.”
With these wide-ranging RFAs posted at the end of 2013, CPRIT is clearly establishing itself for a big year in cancer funding for 2014.