Small Molecule Drug Discovery Project Awards

About this scheme

Key information

Career level
Post doc
Early career researcher
Established independent researcher
Non-clinical researcher
Research area
Drug discovery
Pre-clinical research
Preliminary submission
Final submission
Committee review
Funding period
Typically 1 to 3 years*
Funding amount
Typically £100,000 per annum*
These Awards support research towards identification/validation of new targets, and the discovery of novel small molecule therapeutic/preventative agents.

Applications are accepted from scientists, clinicians or health care workers in UK universities, medical schools, hospitals and some research institutions.

We are willing to support collaborative projects between an academic partner and a commercial partner if appropriate.

Applications are judged based on the potential value of research findings to develop a new preventative or therapeutic approach, with evidence of a project plan that charts a route to develop the findings, including specific achievable milestones and endpoints.

Please contact the Research Funding Manager in order to discuss your proposal and open an application through eGMS.

Research areas:

This award funds milestone driven projects at all stages of drug discovery from target identification/validation to early preclinical studies.

Award applications will also be considered in the following areas:

  • Associated assay/technology development
  • Drug repositioning studies

We would particularly welcome applications at the target identification and target validation stages.

Applications will not be considered for preclinical development studies (e.g. bulk synthesis/manufacture to GMP, toxicology to GCP). Learn more about the stages of small molecule drug discovery.

Funding support is provided for:

  • Typically 12-36 months*
  • Typically £100,000 per annum*
  • Salaries for researchers and technical staff
  • Running expenses

For a detailed breakdown of costs which are permitted, please see Costs Guidance.

* If your proposed project timeline falls outside of this range or the sum you wish to apply for is significantly greater than £100,000 per annum, please contact the Research Funding Manager to discuss your proposal before starting an application.

How to apply to this scheme

Overview of the application process

Applications for Drug Discovery Small Molecule Project Awards are considered twice a year and follow a two-stage process:

  1. Outline: you must submit a short outline application, which will be reviewed by the Small Molecule Expert Review Panel (SMERP) prior to being invited to submit a full application.
  2. Full application: if your outline application is successful you will be invited to submit a full application. All applicants will have an interview with the SMERP.

All applications must be made through our electronic Grants Management System (eGMS). Outline applications are open from the beggining of September. Please contact the team if you wish to submit an application.

At the full application stage we encourage applicants to contact one of the CRUK Drug Discovery Units, or another group with appropriate experience, for guidance in structuring the research proposal and associated project plans.


Outline applications Full applications Interviews Funding decisions
22 May 2018 21 August 2018 09/10 October 2018 November 2018
13 December 2018 14 March 2019 29/30 April 2019 June 2019
16 May 2019 15 August 2019 08/09 October 2019 November 2019


Before you begin your application

You must read the following documents before starting your application 

  1. Application guidelines (PDF 915KB)
  2. Grant conditions

Please contact the funding manager in order to discuss your proposal and open an application through eGMS.

We prioritise funding for projects of sufficient scientific quality that focus on cancers of the brain, lung, pancreas and oesophagus 

Target validation and biomarker guidance notes: an overview of the criteria that are necessary in order to confidently validate a target as having a role in the progression of a cancer disease state. Please note that an application need not necessarily possess all of the criteria described in order to progress to a successful award – these are guidelines and are provided to serve as such.

Applications are assessed by the Small Molecule Expert Review Panel. Final funding decisions are made by the Drug Discovery Committee.

Cancer Research UK contact details

If you have any questions aboout the eligibility of your proposal for this scheme, or require any assistance with your applicaton, please contact the funding manager.

Dr Joo-Hee Sir

Research Funding Manager

+44 (0) 203 469 8668

Exploring a new direction in immunotherapy

Edd James, an established immunologist, is using funding from our Small Molecule Project Award to take his first steps into drug discovery and translate his understanding of antigen processing in cancer into a therapeutic context.

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.