EXPLORE Program

The projects selected for the 2013 Explore competition were announced in December 2013.

The next competition will be announced shortly. For the 2013 competition call for projects, click here..

To view the projects funded under the Explore program see the section “Projects Portfolio“ on our website.

Scope of the program

The main goal of the CQDM Explore program is to support new unconventional and highly innovative research projects that could strongly impact the drug discovery process. It is designed to fund early concept validation of cutting edge tools or technologies addressing critical needs in drug discovery or development.

Projects funded by this program must have the potential for a breakthrough discovery that could lead to an important change in the current paradigm or conventional wisdom. While no preliminary data is necessary, the rationale behind the proposal must be very strong and the applicants must clearly demonstrate how the scientific approach will be validated. The projects can be risky as long as they address well-identified and crucial industrial bottlenecks of the drug R&D process.

Eligibility criteria

For each research proposal submitted in this program:

  • The disruptive potential impact of the project on biopharmaceutical research will be considered a priority
  • The program is widely open to the research community. Senior as well as junior scientists are welcomed to submit an application. Special attention will be paid in the evaluation process to avoid any bias toward the track record of the investigators. The research could originate from single or multiple academic laboratories, hospital teams, biotechnology companies, contract research organizations (CROs) or any other entities. In contrast to the Focus competition, public/private partnerships are not required and single laboratories are eligible and encouraged to apply. Please note that multinational pharmaceutical companies are not eligible for CQDM’s funding;
  • The research must be performed in the province of Quebec.

Research agenda

The research agenda for this competition covers three major themes: (i) biologics, (ii) protein-protein interaction modulation and (iii) innovative drug delivery technologies. Consequently all research applications submitted in response to this Call must fall into at least one of the themes, or else they will not be considered. For information purposes only, examples are listed below; however, applicants with other project proposals falling within the scope of one of the three themes are encouraged to apply.

BIOLOGICS

  • Approaches to increase half-life of biologics (antibodies, proteins, peptides)
  • Oral bioavailability enhancement
  • Optimization of protein expression and purification (cheaper, faster)
  • PET labeling for diagnostic applications
  • Approaches to predicting clinical immunogenicity
  • Next generation antibody approaches (examples such as bi-specific antibodies etc)
  • Antibodies for ion channel targets

MODULATING PROTEIN-PROTEIN INTERACTION

  • New chemistries for protein interfering molecules
  • Efficient ways to measure interference effects of compounds
  • Molecules that target dimers

INNOVATIVE DRUG DELIVERY TECHNOLOGIES

  • Crossing the blood-brain barrier
  • New delivery approaches for the back of the eye
  • siRNA delivery technologies

This competition has broad applicability across all therapeutic indications. Applicants from a variety of disciplines (including, but not limited to, biological and health sciences, chemistry, engineering, etc.) are strongly encouraged to apply with the view to generating tools and technologies that will significantly impact biopharmaceutical research within the three themes. A list of areas of activities that can be funded by CQDM is provided on our Web site at www.cqdm.org/en/cqdm/areas-activity.

Funding specifics

Duration

Maximum 2 years.

Total amount

$150,000 - $300,000 over a two-year period. Please note that the amount requested must be well justified and will be taken into account in the final selection of the projects.

Eligible costs
  • Salary of research personnel necessary for the project (students, post-doctoral fellows, and technical/professional assistants);
  • Material and laboratory supplies including services provided by third party suppliers necessary for the realisation of the project;
  • Travel expenses (field work and collaborations);
  • Intellectual property costs (patent application and maintenance fees during the funding period);
  • Administrative costs (overhead), up to 15% of the eligible research expenses.
Non eligible costs
  • Equipment or facilities (purchase or rental);
  • Salary of the principal investigator and co-investigators.

Evaluation process

CQDM’s funding will be awarded following a competitive process in two stages.

1 – Preliminary application (Letter of intent)

Applicants must submit a letter of intent (using the form available on CQDM’s Web site at www.cqdm.org) describing the project by the date specified in schedule. The selection of the letters of intent will be overseen by the CQDM Explore Advisory Committee. This committee, mainly composed of industry representatives, will select approximately 12 projects based mainly on their potential disruptive impact on biopharmaceutical research. Only applicants whose letter of intent is selected will be invited to submit a full project proposal that will be subject to an external scientific evaluation.

To be pre-selected, the proposed projects must fall within the scope of one of the three major themes: biologics, modulating protein-protein interaction or innovative drug delivery technologies. If the project is outside the scope of these themes, it will not be considered for evaluation.

The evaluation of the letters of intent will focus mainly on the anticipated strong impact of the proposed tool or technology on the drug discovery/development process. However, the innovative character of the project as well as its positioning and competitiveness will also be assessed.

The technology or tools generated from the project should address critical needs faced by the biopharmaceutical industry and bring a breakthrough that can significantly increase the productivity of research (decrease the risk, cost or time of drug development or open-up new research avenues). In particular, applicants should discuss in detail the specific industrial needs they are tackling and describe how their technology or tool can address these needs, and what its overall impact on the drug R&D process will be.

The innovative character of the project will be evaluated according to the novelty of the approach or the technology and its strong and wide potential impact on biopharmaceutical research.

The positioning and competitiveness of the project will also be reviewed. It is highly important to benchmark the proposed technology or approach to ongoing or existing research at the local and international level. Please identify the tools or technologies that address the same goals you are trying to achieve. The differentiating factors of the technology or tool generated from your project should be clearly stated as well as its added value with regard to its future potential applications. The focus should be specifically on the scientific aspects of the technology, approach or product and not on the excellence of the team or facilities.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to clearly address these aspects in their proposals. The text written in each section should be complementary; therefore, the applicants must avoid repetitive information.

All relevant sections of the letters of intent will be also evaluated for the soundness of the scientific approach from a global perspective. The scientific excellence will be evaluated in depth at the stage of the full application. Furthermore, the applicants are encouraged to work with the technology transfer offices of their institutions (when applicable) to complete the letters of intent.

2 – Full proposal

The full applications will be evaluated by an international committee under the responsibility of the FRQS (Fonds de la Recherche du Québec – Santé) taking into account the scientific soundness of the proposal. In parallel, a risk analysis will be performed by the CQDM. The results of both assessments will be presented to the Explore Advisory Committee who will make recommendations to the CQDM’s Board of directors who, in turn, will make the final selection of the research projects to be funded.

Licensing policy

  • A research agreement must be signed by all research entities involved in the project within 3 months after the funding confirmation;
  • Intellectual property generated under this funding program will be managed according to the policies of the financial partners involved;
  • A license option will be granted to the CQDM industrial sponsors (the parent organization and its subsidiaries) for the use of all the results for R&D purposes only. The main conditions of the end-user license option will be negotiated before the beginning of the project and will take into account pre-existing IP as well as contribution from each party;
  • CQDM industrial sponsors will have no rights to commercialize the IP resulting from the project or the pre-existing IP.