Therapeutic Catalyst

About this scheme

Key information

Career level
Established independent researcher
Early career researcher
Mid-career researcher
Non-clinical researcher
Research area
Drug discovery
Pre-clinical research
Cancer biology
Final submission
Funding period
Up to 18 months
Funding amount
Up to £250k per project
The Therapeutic Catalyst accelerates the translation of laboratory discoveries into novel cancer therapeutics.

You should:

  • Be an academic researcher based at any university or research institute world-wide 
  • Have your own lab and/or have undertaken a significant period of postdoctoral research

This scheme is open to global applications. 

Scientific remit

This scheme aims to de-risk early projects to facilitate further drug discovery research, funding, or partnering. We are seeking projects with strong therapeutic potential to deliver patient benefit.

We invite applications for early drug discovery proposals from across all cancer indications and modalities. Some examples of projects we might fund include the following areas:

  • Deconvolution and validation of novel targets and pathways
  • Novel therapeutic approaches to validated targets
  • Development of platforms, assays and screens to identify novel cancer therapeutics or targets
  • Drug discovery feasibility and progressing more advanced assets

Not in remit

The following types of projects are not within the remit of this scheme and will not be progressed:

  • Target identification proposals based solely on the use of gene silencing or editing methods in commercially available tumour cell lines
  • Preclinical development studies to initiate clinical trials (eg, bulk synthesis/manufacture to Good Manufacturing Practice, toxicology to Good Clinical Practice)
  • Drug product toxicology and formulation
  • Development of technology to address an area in early detection or diagnostic field
  • Full hit finding activities
  • Basic biological research relating to cancer
  • Exploratory studies to uncover the underpinning mechanisms of resistance to therapies, novel therapeutic combinations or drug repositioning/repurposing approaches

Contact the Therapeutic Catalyst team to discuss your proposal and whether it fits the remit of this scheme.


Cancer Research Horizons is Cancer Research UK’s drug discovery engine. Cancer Research Horizons collaborates with researchers to translate lab discoveries into effective treatments for cancer patients.

The Therapeutic Catalyst supports exploratory drug discovery efforts to validate and de-risk targets and technologies and position them for onward investment and progression. This provides you with the opportunity to take your research idea from bench to patients with a single funder and partner.

Funded projects run collaboratively between academic and Cancer Research Horizons drug discovery laboratories (Therapeutic Innovation), with joint decision-making and accountability for project progression.

At the proposal stage, you will be assigned a scientist from Therapeutic Innovation to support you throughout your project, working with you to build and pitch the proposal. These scientists bring significant expertise and serve as a single point of contact to manage all the internal (Cancer Research Horizons drug discovery) and external resources required to deliver your project.

We can also offer additional expertise, resources, and capabilities from across Cancer Research Horizons, Cancer Research UK, and our wider investigator network to help your project progress more effectively. Additionally, if appropriate, Cancer Research Horizons can support you in identifying and engaging with potential commercial partners or other options to accelerate the project toward patient benefit.

Successful projects will receive up to £250k for up to 18 months.

This funding covers resources externally from the applying academic laboratory and/or outsourced activities. Academic funding can be provided for staff time (research or technical) and any associated running expenses.

How to apply to this scheme

If you are interested in our Therapeutic Catalyst, please complete our Expression of Interest form

Contact the Therapeutic Catalyst team for an initial discussion of the project, feedback, timeframe, application process, etc.

Successful applications are based on high impact scientific discoveries with a clear route of translation to benefit cancer patients (eg robust proof of concept, strong disease positioning hypothesis, innovative models for target validation or identification, etc).

The proposed project must reach an inflection point within the 18-month window, with validation of the hypothesis and positioning of the project for potential onward investment.

Successful applications are fully collaborative in nature, making the most of expertise based in your own research laboratory and Cancer Research Horizons drug discovery laboratories.

There are 3 rounds of applications per year held in February, June and October. The process is as follows:

  1. Expression of interest:
    • Submit your Expression of Interest form to the Therapeutic Catalyst team
    • These are reviewed by an internal cross-functional committee who examine the therapeutic potential of the project and feasibility.
    • If successful, the applicants will be invited to submit a full project proposal.
  2. Full proposal:
    • One of our scientists will be assigned to work with you to create a collaborative, costed and milestones-driven project proposal.
    • Applications are reviewed by an external cross-functional committee of drug discovery experts.

Therapeutic Innovation team

Disability and accessibility support

We offer additional support for grant applicants and grant holders who are disabled or have a long-term health condition.