Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Developmental pathway funding scheme (DPFS)

This scheme aims to drive fundamental discoveries stemming from MRC’s research boards and the wider academic community along the developmental pathway towards patient benefit and or commercialisation.

Budget:
£30 million a year
Duration:
Ongoing
Partners involved:
Medical Research Council (MRC)

The scope and what we're doing

The Developmental Pathway Funding Scheme (DPFS) is the core MRC translational research scheme and forms a key part of our clinical and translational research strategy.

The aim of the scheme is to drive fundamental discoveries stemming from our research boards and the wider academic community along the developmental pathway towards patient benefit and or commercialisation.

All disease areas are eligible for support from the scheme and applications made through this scheme can focus on the development of any innovative solution that aims to improve the prevention, diagnosis, prognosis or treatment of significant health needs. We also support projects that focus on developing research tools or platform technologies that increase the efficiency of developing interventions.

Individual projects can start and finish at any point along the translational pathway from initial development, through pre-clinical and clinical refinement to early phase clinical trials (up to and including phase IIa).

Collaborations

MRC encourages partnerships in applications, with charities or industry, where these add value to the project. Applications involving collaboration with industry should consult the MRC industry collaboration agreement. Please note that we do not fund the work of your industrial partners.

Opportunities, support and resources available

Funding opportunities

Events

This ongoing scheme has three outline application deadlines per year in March, July and November.

Find details of developmental pathway funding scheme (DPFS) submission deadlines.

Both broad guidance on assessment criteria and governance, and specific guidance on preparation of DPFS outline proposals, are available in the DPFS funding opportunity.

Full stage guidance is provided to successful applicants with the outline feedback.

Resources

The following organisations provide resources that you may find useful. We encourage you to visit their websites when preparing an application.

The MRC Regulatory Support Centre provides support and guidance for those conducting research with human participants, their tissues or data.

The National Institute for Health Research provides a clinical trials toolkit that gives practical advice to those planning or running clinical trials in the UK.

The MHRA Innovation Office provides free advice to clarify regulatory requirements from an early stage of product development.

The MRC-LifeArc Innovation Hubs for Gene Therapies Network supports academic-led early phase clinical development of gene therapies through manufacturing of GMP viral vector, translational and regulatory support, and manufacturing development support ahead of clinical development.

Email viralvector@mrc.ukri.org for more information.

The Nucleic Acid Therapy Accelerator (NATA) provides dedicated research capability, infrastructure and support to enable advances in the development of nucleic acid therapeutics.

Past projects, outcomes and impact

DPFS was established in 2008 and, since then, around 300 projects have been awarded funding with a total budget of around £345 million.

Find details about successful applications to DPFS.

Search for more detailed information on funded projects on Gateway to Research.

In 2018 we commissioned a 10-year review of our translational research investment which was conducted by the MRC evaluation and analysis team, Ipsos MORI and Technopolis Group. The work was overseen by an independent expert advisory group chaired by Professor Simon Hollingsworth.

This evaluation included an examination of the outcomes of completed translational projects and showed strong evidence that MRC funding in this space was allowing projects to progress along the developmental pathway and to secure funding for the later stages of development outside MRC’s remit, including later phase clinical studies, or industry-sponsored research. Projects were found to have delivered a diverse range of outcomes ranging from new tools for research, to new devices and drug treatments now being tested in later phase studies.

The ongoing Impact Acceleration Accounts (IAA) and DPFS initiatives, which accounted for almost half of MRC’s investment in translation over the decade, were found to be a major driver of commercialisation outcomes and a noteworthy UK success in expanding the pipeline of products in development.

Spin-out companies established to take forward the development of research supported by IAA and DPFS projects since 2008 secured over 40% of all equity investment in UK startups in the biotechnology and medical technology sector in 2018, and were valued in total at £2.7 billion.

The evaluation was an opportunity to seek views from a broad range of stakeholders with influence in UK and international translational research. Feedback was consistently positive about the contribution that MRC funding had made to changing the culture in UK academia toward translational research and supporting its expansion.

Read the MRC report on translational research 2008 to 2018.

Who to contact

General enquiries

Email: dpfsanddcs@mrc.ukri.org

We encourage you to get in touch with the relevant programme manager to discuss your proposal ideas.

Please ensure you include a description of the intervention you are planning to develop and the clinical need it is designed to target.

Wherever possible, please include a one to two page overview of the proposed project plan to enable us to provide the most appropriate advice and support.

Small molecules and drug (other)

Dr Adam Babbs
Email: adam.babbs@mrc.ukri.org

Drug and small molecule repurposing studies

Dr Sophie Liddell
Email: sophie.liddell@mrc.ukri.org

Advanced therapeutics: cell, gene, nucleic acid and siRNA therapies

Dr Penny Morton
Email: penny.morton@mrc.ukri.org

Vaccines, antibodies, proteins and peptide therapeutics

Dr Alex Phillips
Email: alexandra.phillips@mrc.ukri.org

Biomarkers and diagnostic, psychological therapies

Dr Tim Ellis
Email: tim.ellis@mrc.ukri.org

Medical and therapeutic devices

Dr Agnes Leong
Email: agnes.leong@mrc.ukri.org

Digital health (software development and AI tools), imaging and regenerative medicine

Dr Suzanne Rix
Email: suzanne.rix@mrc.ukri.org

Governance, management and panels

The DPFS panel meets three times annually in January, May and September to assess applications and recommend awards for funding.

Find details of the current DPFS panel membership.

This is the integrated website of the seven research councils, Research England and Innovate UK.
Let us know if you have feedback or would like to help us test new developments.