Biotherapeutic Drug Discovery Programme Awards

About this scheme

Key information

Career level
Established independent researcher
Non-clinical researcher
Research area
Drug discovery
Pre-clinical research
Preliminary submission
Final submission
Committee review
Funding period
Up to 5 years
Funding amount
Up to £2.5m
This funding scheme aims to increase the availability of biotherapeutic drugs for the management of cancer.

You should be:

  • A scientist, clinician or health care worker with a salaried position for the duration of the award
  • Based at a UK university, medical school, hospital or research institution

You don’t need prior experience of working in drug discovery, but early interaction with a professional drug discovery partner will enhance your application.

We will also support collaborative projects between an academic partner and a commercial partner where appropriate. In some circumstances, non-UK based collaborators are accepted.

Scientific remit

This scheme funds projects at any stage of drug discovery, from target (pathway) identification and validation to early preclinical studies. Awards can support early stage translational research with a clear pathway towards further biotherapeutic development.

Examples of eligible studies include:

  • Validation of a novel target or pathway as a potential biotherapeutic drug target
  • The generation and pre-clinical testing of new biotherapeutic drug candidates
  • Re-positioning clinically validated biotherapeutic drugs in new oncology indications
  • Validation of novel combinations of biotherapeutic drugs or combinations of biotherapeutics with small molecule drugs (or other therapeutic modalities) in oncology indications
  • Application of novel technologies to improve the efficacy of biotherapeutic drugs

This scheme does not fund preclinical development studies required for the initiation of clinical studies, including bulk synthesis/manufacture to GMP or toxicology to GCP.

Eligible biotherapeutics include, but are not limited to:

  • Therapeutic antibodies
  • Cell based therapies
  • Viral therapies
  • Vaccines
  • Protein therapies
  • Gene therapies

Funding is provided for:

  • Typically 5 years
  • Typically £2.5 million*
  • Salaries for postdoctoral researchers and technical staff
  • Running expenses
  • PhD student stipends and fees
  • Equipment up to £50,000 if required for the project

If you require shorter-term support where the aim is to undertake a clearly defined and specific project, you should consider applying for our Biotherapeutic Project Award.

This scheme will not support the salary for the lead applicant. For a detailed breakdown of which costs are permitted, read our Costs Guidance.

*Proposals which fall outside of this timeline or funding amount may be considered with sufficient justification.


CRUK–AstraZeneca Antibody Alliance Laboratory

Successful applicants will also have the opportunity to access the CRUK–AstraZeneca Antibody Alliance Laboratory. The Antibody Alliance Laboratory provides access to AstraZeneca's proprietary human antibody phage display library and established antibody-engineering technologies, alongside the extensive expertise within the laboratory. When you first contact us to discuss opening your application, we will discuss with you whether the Antibody Alliance Laboratory could support your proposal. If you wish to access the Antibody Alliance Laboratory, you should include this in your application.

If you are already a CRUK-funded scientist, you can apply directly to access the Antibody Alliance Laboratory.

How to apply to this scheme

Application process

New applications are considered once a year and follow a three-stage process:

  1. Discussion: you must contact the research funding manager for an informal, confidential discussion about your proposed project. We will advise you on how to form suitable collaborations and ensure you are considering all necessary criteria within your proposal. Once the project is ready for a formal application we will open this on our electronic Grants Management System (eGMS).
  2. Outline application: you must submit a short outline application, which will be reviewed by the Biotherapeutic Expert Review Panel (BTERP) prior to being invited to submit a full application.
  3. Full application: if successful, you will be invited to submit a full application. All applications are subject to external peer review and you will be asked to attend interview with the BTERP.

Final funding decisions will then be made by the Drug Discovery Committee (DDC).


Outline application deadline

Full application deadline

Interview dates

Committee decision

6 December 2018

5 March 2019

7/8 May 2019

June 2019

Before you begin your application

  • You must read the application guidelines (PDF 961KB) and funding grant conditions 
  • You must read the Costs Guidance to understand what costs can be included in the award
  • The full application must be approved by your host institution
  • You must contact the research funding manager to discuss your proposal and open an application 

Applications are assessed on their potential to develop a new preventative or therapeutic approach – the outputs of funded research should provide information that will significantly contribute to the development and eventual clinical testing of a medicine to deliver on an unmet medical need in oncology.

The Biotherapeutic Expert Review Panel will judge your proposal on:

  • Scientific excellence: all applications must have a strong scientific rationale to support the proposed research proposal.
  • Cancer-relevance: likely to advance how cancer is understood, prevented, diagnosed or treated.
  • Collective track record: the team should demonstrate their combined strengths and potential to produce outstanding results.
  • The strength of your research team and research environment.
  • The translational work plan, which should include:
    • Achievable milestones with go/no-go decision points
    • The specific deliverables of the project, for example assays, models or tools
    • A plan for further progression and the potential line of sight to the clinic at the end of the award

The Drug Discovery Committee will assess whether the application aligns with our Research Strategy.


When you first contact us to discuss opening your application, we will discuss with you whether suitable collaborations are in place to support the project.

Working with a professional drug discovery partner (academic or commercial) with experience of developing drug discovery proposals and project plans, will enhance your application for example by:

  • Aiding you in defining specific milestones for the project, with associated go/ no-go decisions points
  • Providing access to facilities and expertise (e.g. assay development, models, tools, phage display libraries)
  • Participating in regular meetings to aid in project management and guiding the future direction and clinical translation of the project.

Applications are assessed by the Biotherapeutics Expert Review Panel (BTERP). Final funding decisions are made by the Drug Discovery Committee (DDC).

Cancer Research UK contact details

Dr Rupal Mistry

Research Funding Manager

Tel: +44 (0) 203 469 8732

Our drug discovery infrastructure

To support our investigator-led drug discovery research we have made extensive investment in infrastructure for biotherapeutic and small molecule drug discovery.

Where next for cancer immunotherapy?

Where next for cancer immunotherapy?

We're driving discovery research in immuno-oncology which is leading to novel and exciting immunotherapeutic possibilities.

Related guidance to download