Cancer Research UK says it will invest £100 million, or about $150 million, over the next 5 years in an ambitious grant program aimed at tackling some of the most vexing unsolved problems in cancer research. The group has issued seven initial Grand Challenges and will present its first award next fall.
Cancer Research UK (CRUK) plans to invest £100 million, or about $150 million, over the next 5 years in an ambitious grant program aimed at tackling some of the most vexing unsolved problems in cancer research. The group has issued seven initial challenges and aims to present its first award next fall.
Each year, the “Grand Challenges” program will award at least one 5-year grant of up to £20 million (approximately $30 million) to teams chosen by an international panel of nine accomplished scientists, which also set the initial challenges. Expressions of interest are due in February, with select teams making final submissions by the end of July. The winner will be announced in September.
“We are looking for scientists to approach these problems from multiple coordinated angles and to make use of the latest technologies,” says panel member Suzanne Cory, PhD, laboratory head in the Division of Molecular Genetics of Cancer at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne, Australia. “In developing these challenges, we deliberately looked for things that would provoke researchers to think outside the box.”
Although CRUK's grants have traditionally supported UK-based projects, the Grand Challenges initiative requires only that teams have a strong UK component, and encourages international collaboration, says Nic Jones, PhD, CRUK's chief scientist. Teams are also expected to cross disciplines, have a principal investigator and up to seven co-investigators from academic institutions or industry, and include a patient advocate.
“We'd like to see 25% of overall activity occur in the UK, but the rest could be based and led from elsewhere—and that's a very different approach for CRUK,” Jones says. “Our main goal is to have the very best people apply their knowledge and expertise towards these challenges.”
While similar in spirit to the National Institutes of Health's Provocative Questions grant program, Grand Challenges is larger in scale and more focused on teams versus individual investigators, says Jones. The NIH recently committed $40 million to fund Provocative Questions grants over the next 2 years (Cancer Discov 2015;5:569–70).
CRUK hopes to attract other funding partners as the project gains momentum. With the participation of other organizations, the group may eventually be able to sponsor more than one challenge per year, Jones adds.
During the selection process, the panel will look for new or unusual collaborations involving multiple disciplines, says Cory. For example, teams might include biomedical researchers, software developers, engineers, and experts in the physical, behavioral, health, population, and social sciences.
Proposals must provide details on how team members will communicate and work together effectively, she adds. “These should be very real teams, not just collections of individuals.”
These are the seven initial challenges:
Develop vaccines to prevent nonviral cancers
Eradicate Epstein-Barr virus–induced cancers worldwide
Discover how unusual patterns of mutation are induced by different cancer-causing events
Distinguish between lethal cancers that need treating and nonlethal cancers that don't
Find a way of mapping tumors at the molecular and cellular level
Develop innovative approaches to target the cancer super-controller MYC
Deliver biologically active macromolecules to any and all cells in the body
Information about how to apply for a Grand Challenges grant is available at www.cancerresearchuk.org/funding-for-researchers. –Janet Colwell
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- ©2016 American Association for Cancer Research.